The Lessons of Trees

18There is a spruce tree in my back yard, originally planted by landscapers for my area. I’ve watched it grow over the last twelve years from 4 feet to approximately 20 feet. It’s crown now reaches the second level of my two story home, so even from the window of my office, I see the top tips dripping pine cones swaying in the wind under a heavy clouded sky.

And I wonder, even though the spruce’s neighbour, a ground lying juniper, has now spread to touch it’s lower branches, is it lonely without one similar beside it? It is thriving, but would it thrive more, if it had another spruce to touch?

Mr. Wohlleben says yes. A tree lives longer when not alone.


“A tree is not a forest. On it’s own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of the wind and weather. But together….in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old. To get this the community must remain intact no matter what.  If every tree was looking out for itself, then quite a few of them would never reach old age.” The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben

It is at the mercy of the wind and the weather. I wonder what would have happened if Jonathan had not been growing with David, or Paul learning from Barnabas? What if they had decided to do it alone? Would David have been as strong to not be at the mercy of his enemies without the loyalty of his best-friend Jonathan? Would Paul have been as strong to not succumb to his old self without the mentorship and encouragement of Barnabas? Would both David and Paul been strong enough to weather the storms they had without the community of their friends?

As more of an introvert, and one whose heart still has places where guards stand too rigid, I can plant myself like the spruce in my yard, alone but looking fine. Yet, in so many places, God’s word tells me it is in community where we ‘spur’, or in other words, are encouraged to move forward.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10: 24-25

…as some are in the habit of doing. It’s in the doing that a habit is created. For my spruce tree, it’s choice is still to grow in it’s place where it is planted. Yet, unfortunately it’s been taken from it’s natural habitat of a forest into an urban backyard, alone. It’s thriving is limited, but it is doing the best it can. But we though, do have choice. Our best goes beyond the walls of ourselves. Our best is best when reaching out and creating a habit of community.

Romans 12:4-5 “For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Romans 12:4-5


My spruce is a tree that is missing community, but a walk in many parks, trails, and natural forests shows me communities of like trees. Have you ever looked up and seen a cascade of branches, spiralling in many directions, almost like they are fighting for space? Have you noticed though, that these end branches reaching out to others tend to be thin, so still allowing the light through? These trees are reaching out to their community, but with the thinnest of branches so not to overwhelm or take away from any of their neighbours. The space is shared.

“But a pair of true friends is careful right from the outset not to grow overly thick branches in each others direction. The trees don’t want to take anything away from each other, and so they develop sturdy branches only at the outer edges of their crowns...” The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben

David and Jonathon, Paul and Barnabas were friends for a season. Each reached out their branches of giftedness, giving to each other the nourishment needed to keep on, yet still staying in their own space. Later as their stories unfold, Jonathon dies in battle, and Barnabas and Paul go their separate ways to spread God’s word. But during their time together, they shared life, each with the mind and heart to grow God’s light in the world.

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. Acts 4:32

“It appears that nutrient exchange (through their root systems) and helping neighbours in times of need is the rule.” The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben

Helping neighbours in times of need is the rule… 

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:16


Now when I walk among the trees, I like to imagine that the rustling of the leaves, the swaying of the branches are whispers of encouragement to each other. I like to imagine that within the roots under my feet travel nourishment to those in need. I like to look up and see the pockets of sun shining through the weaves of lean branches.

And know the world really is a good and beautiful place.

Is there someone you can gather into community today? Or can stretch out a thin branch to that lets the light shine through on both of you?

How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity! Psalm 133:1

Breathing Spaces-Trees  Photography by Lynn J Simpson

15 thoughts on “The Lessons of Trees

  1. “But a pair of true friends is careful right from the outset not to grow overly thick branches in each others direction. The trees don’t want to take anything away from each other, and so they develop sturdy branches only at the outer edges of their crowns…” The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben

    This is amazing, Lynn. Truly amazing! Thank you for sharing it.


  2. I love this! I’m about to go on holidays to the mountains, I’ll be absolutely surrounded by trees. And just after that I’m starting at a new church. What a wonderful time to reflect on the importance of community and fellowship before starting there.


  3. Oh, Lynn, I love this post! I hear so many people saying how they don’t need to be part of a local church. Yet, the Scriptures call us liken us to the human body. We need each other. Your tree analogy is a great way to express the benefit of standing together. I’ll be linking to this post on Friday, 8/4. Thanks again.


  4. Oh Lynn, this is just so beautiful and profoundly inspiring. I just love the way you write- and the messages you share. They always find a permanent place in my heart. Sharing this everywhere! Thank you for this powerful reminder to reach out, connect, and witness the flourishing fruit of community in the body come forth. It is SO true.


  5. Love your comparisons Lynn. Never thought of a tree like that, but I see that here at my home. We just lost a magnolia tree that has always struggled. Now I’m thinking it was all alone. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, Lynn. I never thought about trees in this light before. How interesting that their lives flourish when in community. God knows the value of community not just for humans but for trees, animals, and I’d bet other plants as well. No one does as well isolated from others. Thank you for this beautiful reminder, Lynn!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a good post! I love the analogy and the challenge. I’m thankful for my online community but like that tree, I’ve been taken from my own forest and planted here where I lack other support. Hopefully, that situation won’t be forever. You have given me much food for thought today! Again–excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

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