catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 13, Num 12 :: 2014.06.13 — 2014.06.26


Tree interference

It’s where I played with the neighbor’s dog. It’s where I learned to throw a baseball. It was a soccer goal post. It was a backrest. It was the shaded spot in the pool. It was a thunderstorm tell-tale. It was a cool respite in the heat of a Michigan summer. It was even where I discovered to play with words. It was the big tree in the backyard.

“Tree interference!” I called. I was probably ten. My dad and I were playing catch, and one of the lower hanging branches crossed paths with the softball, causing Dad’s estimation of where his glove should hover to be an error in the books. Despite the miscalculation, Dad (an English teacher and wordsmith) laughed at my attempt at the sports pun. I knew I had succeeded, even if the ball landed on the ground several feet away from either of our gloves.

That is one of my earliest memories of using words to make jokes (okay, attempts at jokes). Ever since then, I’ve been looking for ways to play with words. I may be too happy at times or perhaps painfully geeky with the things I can come up with, but I’ve learned that it’s part of who I am. I’m afraid it’s impossible to remove the word-nerd from me, much to the chagrin of my eye-rolling friends. And it all started under that tree in the backyard.

It wasn’t the only tree that lived in our yard. There were two tall pine trees in the front yard, three apple trees and a pear tree in the backyard. But none of them were quite like this one. It was the tree that every kid needed, and I had it. There was no tree house, no tire swing, no low branches to climb, but it was perfect.

I don’t live under that tree anymore, and where I now live is, sadly, void of story-bearing trees. I look out on the five acres I now call home and, while there’s a whole lot more room than the one-third acre I grew up on, I long for that one tree.

The job description of a tree doesn’t include very much. Basically it just has to stand there, move when the wind tells it to, and do that whole photosynthesis thing. Sure, it may serve a lot of other purposes, like providing shade and shelter and oxygen, but it typically doesn’t have anything to do with one’s spiritual growth. But for me, it does.

I look back at the tree, the ball plays and the word plays, and realize things about myself. My identity is not tied to that tree, though it serves as a personal landmark where I began developing as a person. And it reminds me that my identity — complete with silly jokes and nerdy word plays — is securely resting in Christ. It’s still growing, too, just like that tree. The Lord is continually shaping it, shaping me. And if He chooses to use a tree to run that kind of interference, so be it. It was His first anyways. 

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