Working the grounds as a volunteer at St. Francis Retreat Center, I take great joy in making outdoor prayer spaces. There is really nothing elaborate about the gardens on the ninety-five acre site. After all, we were inundated with deer, rabbits, squirrels, and a host of other animals. All of which love to eat the flowers and shrubs suitable to their nutritional needs. I love the challenge of finding just the right plant for the right place that is resistant to their browsing.
As I walked to another meditative garden, I looked at all the trees and grasses that our gardening group had installed. I was gratified to see how well everything was growing and that we were able to bring people to a space where they could draw closer to God.
I noticed as I came around the drive that one of the trees had its trunk wrapped. I did not recall any of us performing the task and wandered over to have a look. We had planted this tree, a Chinese Elm, because of its resistance to disease and insects, and I was surprised to see its lower trunk covered.
From a distance I did not realize that the tree was wound in black plastic; a very bad product to be tied around any tree. I knew the Groundskeeper would never do this and assumed someone unfamiliar with proper tree care may have tried to help. I was less curious about who had done this than why.
My heart sank as I removed the plastic and saw a three foot length of bark had been mechanically stripped from the trunk. The force of whatever had happened had even gone into the wood. The beautiful young Elm was deeply and forever scarred.
I thanked God that whoever had tried to hide the damage had not compounded the problem by slopping paint or tar on the wound. I was also grateful that the wounding had happened fairly recently and that diseases had not begun to grow under the plastic. Walking over to the spigot, I turned on the water and with the hose began washing the area and leaving it to heal in the sunlight.
It was a few days later when I returned to the tree that I realized how its wounding led me into a deeper understanding of sin. When our souls have been wounded and deeply scarred we try to hide it, often times making the situation worse through other wrong choices. Once we accept what has happened and expose the mistake to the Light, we too will be able to heal.