In the wake of days after Dad was killed, when I couldn’t sleep, I would lie awake in the middle of the night, and try not to think of his last thoughts just before he fell under the wheel of the tractor, and I felt like part of me had fallen and died and I would think of how, deep in the New Zealand Forest, a Kauri tree fell.
Who knows why Dad fell under the wheel of the tractor? Slipped? Tripped? Turned? Who knows exactly why this one particular kauri tree fell hard in the forest? Lightning? Disease? Cut down in its prime?
“Those who bury the dead, who bury hopes and dreams, can end up feeling like the walking dead.”
Whatever the reason, I know this about the tree, that the rains came and fell on the forest floor, and unremarkable stump in the New Zealand forest for years? It looked — dead. A hollowed-out half-cylinder, hardly the size of a chair, the stump looked like a leafless, unwelcome eruption in the middle of a hiking trail.
A dead and hollowed out shell of its former, thriving, flourishing self.
I have felt this — in this present season of grief, I have felt this.
Those who bury the dead, who bury hopes and dreams, can end up feeling like the walking dead.
But it happened on one ordinary day in New Zealand, that an ecologist named Sebastian Leuzinger was out for what I like to call a daily glory soak, when Leuzinger spotted that the seemingly dead kauri tree stump — only to notice the seemingly impossible.
The stump was dripping sap.
Could the cut down, seemingly very dead stump — actually be alive?
Eventually, after much considered study, the ecologist Leuzinger discovered something rather miraculous:
“That’s the miracle: Cut down lives can revive when we share our lives.”
Yes, the stump was definitely alive! Yes, the stump had running sap! And yes, the stump still lived because, deep under the earth, far beneath the surface of things, the roots of the stump were wrapped around and connected, interlaced, linked, to the roots of the forest trees around it.
What the ecologist discovered was that “the tree stump’s roots have been grafted together with roots from other trees, something that is known to happen when trees sense they can share resources with the trees around them.”
That’s the miracle: Cut down lives can revive when we share our lives.
When no one noticed, when our hopes and lives felt hollowed out and truncated after Dad was unexpectedly and traumatically killed, underneath the daily rush of all the things, Diane left chili and buns on our front porch and Sue brought a plate of cookies and Anne dropped a still warm loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, and Marlene brought a roast dinner one week, and rice and meatballs the week after that, and do not doubt the ministry of the meal.
“We are the People of the Tree, we are a Forest of the Faithful, we are the ones rooted in Christ and we reach out and wrap our roots around the hurting to keep each other alive in the faith.”
Church mothers with their meals revive the living dead with their warm bowl of soups and the aching are not forsaken. The royal priesthood with the heaping plates, these women raise those in the Valley of Dry Bones, and they resurrect the faith of the brokenhearted with their rising steam to fill the belly and strengthen the weary bones.
I may have felt like the numbed walking dead in the blur of days after the whirl of police lights, Dad leaving us during a rainstorm on a Thursday morning, but the roots of a forest of faithful women wrapped around us and loaned us hope and life.
Because this is what the body of Christ does.
We are the People of the Tree, we are a Forest of the Faithful, we are the ones rooted in Christ and we reach out and wrap our roots around the hurting to keep each other alive in the faith.
Beyond the shadows of our church doors, there is an underground web of connection, of texts and messages, of phone calls and coffees, of cards and dropped off meals and bowls of soups and prayer threads.
It’s the underground church — the church that we are under the banner of the six other days of the week, the church that we are on the ground, in our own neighborhoods, the church that we are not just under the church roof, but also outside of the church, that makes the church strong, that loans strength to the weak, that strengthens the whole community of trees.
It was happening like this beneath the carpet of that Kauri forest, where roots were grafting mysteriously to other roots and this stabilized and steadied each tree — and these grafted roots became this hidden dance of givenness where water and nutrients and resources and hope is shared during hardship.
Deep underneath that New Zealand forest floor, where no one could see, there was a great grafting weave of roots, a great dance of water flowing, renewing, reviving, restoring.
“You are going to be okay, you are going to thrive, you are going to flourish, you’re going to rise from this floor.”
Though we are daily facing our own hardships, though we may feel like the dreams and hopes for our life, our calling, our relationships, may have been unexpectedly cut down, sense it right now, wherever you unexpectedly find yourself, THIS IS TRUE:
You are not alone. No matter what things look like, no matter what looks dead, no matter what seems like a stump of all kinds of dreams: You are going to be okay, you are going to thrive, you are going to flourish, you’re going to rise from this floor.
Christ grafts Himself to you to steady you, stabilize you, sustain you through His Word and through all the gloriously real resources of Christ, the God-Man who hung on the tree, all of His resources are available to you.
And because we are rooted in Christ, sustained by Christ, living through the nutrients and living water of christ, we who are The People of Calvary’s Tree, the Forest of the Faithful, we are called to:
“When we touch someone with love, they experience the healing glory of God.”
“Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence — God’s GLORY — will be evident in everything through Jesus, and He will get all the credit — all the GLORY — as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!” 1 Peter 4:11 MSG
When we’re a light in someone’s dark, what they testify to seeing is God’s glory.
When we touch someone with love, they experience the healing glory of God.
“What does love look like?” St. Augustine asked. “It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” St Augustine said.
Bring a plate of cookies — you’re bringing a dish of the love of God.
Text someone — you’re sending a line of the very love of God.
“How we love always boomerangs. Love boomerangs. Compassion boomerangs. Kindness boomerangs. Love boomerangs and God’s glory goes around and around through the hands and feet of His people and the hurting are healed.”
Take someone on a walk every week — and you both are being healed by community and the presence of Love Himself in the midst of you.
When we get to be the underground church for each other, the people of Calvary’s Tree that shares resources and encouragement and love under the surface of everything, we love each other as if our life depends on it — because it does.
One day you will be the suffering, the hurting, the stump of a tree that is hollowed out with pain and you will desperately need the withness of others to love you back to life.
“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these,” wrote George Washington Carver.
How we love always boomerangs. Love boomerangs. Compassion boomerangs. Kindness boomerangs. Love boomerangs and God’s glory goes around and around through the hands and feet of His people and the hurting are healed.
Marlene didn’t just send me a text once, like I was an item on her to-do list, Marlene sent me a text every single day, to see how I was, how my heart really was.
And so did Jessica and Emily and Esther and Kay and Ange and Molly and Lisa-Jo and I realized what I hadn’t deeply realized:
Hurting people don’t need to be a one-time check-off on anyone’s list, but they need someone to check in on them regularly because they are written on someone’s heart.
And when Marlene brought the third meal, I brimmed and asked her why did she stay tracking with me, why did she keep checking in?
And she said, “Because friends stick with each other. That is what we do. We stick with each other.”
And I nodded: “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
When we stick close to each other, no one gets stuck.
“When we stick close to each other, no one gets stuck.”
As I couldn’t sleep in the days and weeks after Dad was killed, a group of Church Mothers each video recorded themselves reading Scripture, Jennie and Christy and Esther and Rebekah and Ruth and Priscilla and Shelley, and so many more sisters in Christ, and they sent me this 27 minute recording of them praying and preaching the comfort of the Gospel truth to me so that in the middle of the night watches when I felt alone and cut down and hurting — I watched and rewatched the church mothers loaning me the strength of Jesus through His Word, their roots wrapping around mine, loving me back to life.
They nourished my roots and sent me hope to breathe and gave me His Word, Living Water, and these Church Mothers literally revived my soul and they helped me carry my burden, giving me withness and witness, so I knew I wasn’t alone and this underground church of love helped me RISE AGAIN.
Just the night before my father was killed — he sat listening to this song called, “Burden” with these lines:
“Come to me, my brother, and I will sit with you awhile
Pretty soon I’ll see you smile and you know you will
No matter how much you’re hurting right now
You know that everything will change in time
So let me carry your burden
Let me carry your burden…”
“What makes us resilient is how we reach out to each other.”
And this is what we can do, we as the underground church can do, as we reach out like Christ, Cruciform, and help to carry each other’s burdens — one text, one phone call, one meal, one walk, one prayer, one Scripture reading at a time.
This is what I know:
You may not know the weight someone’s carrying, but if you’ve at all known the weight of God’s glory, you’ve got to relieve the weight of someone else’s burden.
What makes us resilient is how we reach out to each other.
We have lived all the days since spring, when Dad was killed, and now the leaves in all these trees down these country back roads, begin to turn, ablaze with glory, like they can’t keep it a secret, the joy of being deeply rooted, of reviving the cut down with more life and hope and glory, roots reaching right out.
To stand together — FOR each other — knowing that an act of kindness, reaching out, giving it forward, can revive dead places, can raise us all.
Don’t we all need to RISE right now?
The way forward — is always to give forward.