In the 1980’s I visited the Monet exhibit when it was at the Chicago Art Museum. My husband at the time humored me with tickets and appeared to be as delighted as I was with the works of this famous impressionist. Sometimes you just have to see things in person to understand their brilliance; this was true for both of us after we toured the travelling exhibit. We brought home a print of the Japanese Bridge at Giverny to frame and proudly display in our home as a remembrance. I still have that picture lying in wait for the perfect place to showcase it in the more contemporary-styled home of Steve and me. Perhaps we will find that spot in another few decades or maybe our next home, whichever comes first!
Another piece of art takes my breath away every time I see it. If I can ever find another print of it I suspect that I will always have it on display somewhere no matter our décor. I was in the gift shop of the Chicago Art Museum with a boyfriend at the time, years before finding the Monet print, when I found a poster of Henri Matisse’s “The Tree of Life.” It’s a photograph of a stained glass window from the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence, Italy. Something about it captured my heart. The colors and themes are simple, completed in a form of collage for which Mr. Matisse remains famous. I’m not particularly fond of most of the rest of his work however, that tends to be more abstract or includes distorted images of people, places, and things in bright colors. Many of those people are partially naked: tis not my cup of tea to have an image of a naked stranger on display in my living room!
We carried the poster home on the commuter train back home to the suburbs like a prized possession. This trip occurred before I had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the true giver of life. Oh I knew the story of Adam and Eve from Genesis and the two trees in the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Tree of Life. Perhaps it was the simple themes, Biblical title, and reverence for our Creator that struck a cord in me when I saw this image. Sadly over the years of living in various apartments then storing the print in a storage locker, the framed poster was damaged by a basement flood beyond repair. Or perhaps it was the distraction of graduate school that cost me my better judgment in keeping this little memento safe. Oh well. It’s not that important right?
Years later I came upon the Tree of Life image online. I searched and searched through scores of poster websites trying to find another copy. On two occasions I even called the gift shop at the Art Museum trying to locate a source for securing another copy. The image was printed for that temporary exhibit only and the staff said I would have to contact the Vatican in Italy for another one! Yes, I looked for contact information for the Vatican gift shop and eventually ran into a dead end once again. Still another lead led me to an oil painter who could make copies of it but the online service appeared somewhat nefarious for the cost. I’m not sure it would be worth a few hundred dollars to have a beastly oil painting when a nicely matted and framed print will do just fine.
So the search will go on for perhaps another few decades. That’s fine too. These days the “stuff of life” (as in art prints) is less important to me. An older mentor once taught me at a critical time in my life to hold things of value lightly before the throne of God’s grace. It’s like placing a pencil in the palm of an outstretched hand. He may grant you good things or non-material blessings depending upon each season of life in which we find ourselves. Sometimes we hold onto the pencil for a purpose as it lies on our hand and other times the pencil falls away. To discern whether to hold on to it or let go out of our hands is wisdom indeed and worth holding onto the most. Let’s reflect on this further:
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed. Proverbs 3:18
Ah yes, there it is. Looks like in the Bible the Tree of Life was first noted in the Garden of Eden and later referred to wisdom. What else we can find?
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives. Proverbs 11:30
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4
On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:2
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Revelation 22:4
And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. Revelation 22:19 (Our just reward if we do not heed His invitation.)
Knowing that I have access to the tree of life through my relationship with Jesus Christ has made a tremendous difference in my life. These past 2 1/2 years have been wretched with painful, noxious symptoms and waking seizures every day, multiple times per day, and often for hours. Other symptoms come and go every day. Knowing the hope that lies within our Lord’s living water manifest within the image of a life-giving tree resonates with me. I love gardening and increasingly appreciate being outside more than indoors: two ingredients drawing me towards His majestic creation in the natural world.
As He gives life to nature so does He breathe life into you and me. The past 1 1/2 months since my brother’s devastating stroke pains me as I realize his suffering too. My love for Mike draws me to pray for him in hopes that he rededicates his life to the Lord who loves him despite this situation. As we both dwell in the presence of the Lord there will be a purpose for our lives, a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). We must draw upon the living water extended to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection to realize these promises, until we are called home to dwell in His presence forever. His indwelling Spirit will sustain us, and strengthen us like that tree of life growing strong and tall against the storms that may come. It is the harsh winds and rainstorms that help the sapling to develop strong roots, sturdy branches, and rings in the trunk that tell the stories of His amazing grace through it all.
The real tree of life is not a poster or a pendant found on the internet: that is for certain! The real tree of life is the Lord Jesus Christ as the rock of my salvation, His firm foundation under my feet, nourished from the Word of God, yielding the fruit of Holy Spirit for His glory alone. We will grow in love and admonition of the Lord: a wonderful place to be. I am so grateful to have found the true Giver of life. Gentle Reader: have you found Him too? :J