Reflections | August 2, 2016

Reaching out to touch God

I’m fortunate to be spending the summer in a state forest. Surrounded by the beautiful sights and sounds of nature, every day I learn anew to appreciate the majesty of God’s creation.

In particular, I find myself inspired and awestruck by the trees. In Pennsylvania, we don’t have towering redwoods or sequoias. Yet the most accomplished ancient architects never built columns as beautiful and regal as the slender pine trees and solemn oaks that stretch straight into the air and seem to hold the weight of the entire world on their gentle branches.

The weather has been beautiful lately, and I get a shiver up and down my spine when I look at those pine trees reaching toward heaven. Their green hands are splayed out against the piercing blue sky, as if they are trying to brush the face of God.

The writers of the Old Testament, too, were inspired by the majesty of trees. In particular, they wrote often of the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty, symbols of might, beauty, and grandeur. In the cedars, the Old Testament writers saw reflected heaven and the breathtaking power of God’s creation. Today, the remaining cedar forests in Lebanon are called the “Cedars of God.”

Something about trees reminds us of what it means to strive for God. I wish that I could stand as straight and firm as they do and reach as far as they do. I wish my roots were dug in like theirs are, and I yearn to grow toward God in community, as trees so often do. I want to bear fruit like they do, and share Christ boundlessly, as they do with their pollen and seeds.

Fortunately, God created us to strive for him and touch him, just as he created trees to do the same. In Matthew 25, Jesus teaches us how we can touch God. In the manner we treat the poor, the sick, the stranger, and the forsaken, so we have treated God. If we ever want to touch God, we must simply reach out to “the least of these.”

While God created trees with branches to stretch towards heaven, he created us with hands to hold one another, with voices to speak out for one another, and with hearts to love one another. If we stretch our hands towards each other, we will touch God.

Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred is a member of Hollidaysburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren and attends Washington City Church of the Brethren in Washington, D.C. A recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, he is a Young Fellow at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. He also runs and is a host of the Dunker Punks Podcast.