THE LESSON OF THE TREE
Joseph and I talked together earnestly. I was so much attracted to his simple, wise nature that I asked if we could come to visit him again, after our book was finished. He consented gladly, telling me of a cottage he and the Master had built in the very depths of the wood, where a tiny stream ran softly past the door.
“We made it for those who find joy among the trees,” he explained. “You and Janet must stay there.”
“In the cottage the Master has helped to build?” I asked in awe. “Is it well that people should use it? Ought it not to be kept as a holy place?”
Joseph looked at me keenly, then, evidently wondering how many or how few words he needed to use, to make me understand. Then he said: “Did not the Master wash His disciples’ feet?”
We walked on, silently. At first I wondered how this holy incident could be connected with the cottage. Then its meaning dawned. I turned to Joseph with a smile.
“Service ” I said in reverent wonder. “From the greatest to the least.”
“Yes,” he agreed, “and brotherhood. The brotherhood of all and the Fatherhood of God, and He, the Elder Brother as a link between the two, raising us and binding us to the Greatest of All.”
Again we walked on silently. Now and then I caught a glimpse of the Master’s cream robe, and Janet’s brown one swinging against it between the trees. Accustomed as I was to a mind-link with her, I knew that she was in an ecstasy, that she would store in her memory every incident and every smallest word that was uttered, that for all eternity she would draw upon the wisdom she was receiving, and drawing, would teach me also. Sometimes I would catch a glimpse of her joy. It came to me as an impression of light, as though a great sun were shining in the darkness of the wood. My mind drifted back to the cottage, and to Joseph’s invitation.
“How kind you are,” I said gratefully: “Janet and I will surely return and find our Heaven there, in the woodland glade. What greater joy could there be?”
“We all think that,” Joseph mused, smiling at some tender memory. “The Master has told me that, great as my present joy is, there are much greater joys, that the time will come when He will beckon me, and I shall leave all this to another, and soar upwards to some glory of bliss beyond my knowing now. He tells me, though, that men are never hurried, that all life is one, that men start to live eternal life while still on earth.”
“Our angel has taught us much concerning that,” I answered.
“Most of His teaching is given while we stand at the bench, polishing some piece of furniture that is otherwise completed,” Joseph went on. “Polishing is very slow, monotonous work. It cannot be hurried or it would not have its true gloss. It is in these times that the Master speaks to me of deep mysteries and high truths. When I was on earth, I used to think of Him a great deal during the monotonous parts of my work. I used to imagine Him beside me, teaching me of His wisdom. He has since told me that He often came to me and that when men called me wise, it was of His wisdom that they drew. He said that He comes to all who desire Him, when they are very quiet, when their mind-activity is stilled and they are relaxed, humble, undemanding and at peace. He said these were the four essentials of His coming.”
“Where are we going now?” I asked after a long silence.
“We are going to select another tree for our work,” Joseph explained. “Look!” he cried suddenly, “the Master has made a choice, for there He is.”
We came upon them, then, the Lord and Janet, standing together beneath a great tree. The Master had a hand upon its trunk, and as we drew near Janet was saying: “Is its life finished, then, when it is cut down?”
“Oh no,” the Lord smiled, turning to look down at her. “The tree has its own life which pulses within it all unseen by the eyes of men. This life is in constant movement and, although the tree cannot be said to be conscious, yet it thrills with its own life and can answer to the touch or the word of its Maker.”
“Oh! “Janet looked up wonderingly at the great tree.
“Have you not heard the story of the changing of the water into wine at the wedding feast? Or of the loaves and fishes?”
The Master looked at her smilingly, for He knew that she both knew and loved the stories. Then He continued:
“Even when the tree is cut down, its life still continues, both in that which is left behind and that which is taken. When at last it dies, its life but flows back to the One Life. That is all death is. When men die, too, it is their earth bodies only which are bereft of life. They too return to the One Life with all that they have gathered on their earth-journey, with all that is enduring. Then in the realm of Heaven, they live and grow, drawing closer and closer to the allwise, all-loving One Life of the Father.” He paused, and looked up at the tree again.
“This great tree will know that I have need of it. It will yield itself without the rebellions which are so often present in the minds of men. Its passing from this living in the forest can be likened to the retirement of men on earth, when their span of work is done. It will rest in greater usefulness, however, helping to fulfil the Heaven desires of My little ones. So you see that even this great tree has a part in the Father’s plan.”
Again He paused, putting both hands on the rough bark. Our angel, coming at that moment into the pathway, quickly stepped up to us.
“Deepen your sight,” he whispered, “as you were taught to do in the Place of Vision.” Swiftly we obeyed him, with wonder in our hearts.
“Great tree, I have need of you,” the Master said, speaking low as though He shared a secret. “You have lived long in the forest, growing from a little seed into this dignity of age. Birds have sheltered in your branches and little children have played around your trunk. Now that I have need of you, I give you my blessing in the Name of your Maker.”
Leaning closer, He laid His forehead against it, and whispered low.
Immediately, with out deepened sight, we saw the sap running upward with great rapidity, so that for a moment it looked as though the interior of the tree was on fire. From the deepest roots beneath the soil to the highest leaf of all, we saw the pulsating, flaming life flashing and shooting and returning in an endless circle. Where the Master’s hand rested, the light was the brightest of all. The whole outline of the tree soon shared in the radiance, so that it sent a glowing aura in every direction, lighting up the darkness of the wood.; As we watched in breathless wonder, the topmost branches leant over to hover above the Lord’s head…
Suddenly, I was reminded of legends I had read on earth, of the way in which the trees and flowers, the water and the rocks, had answered to the touch or word of the Holy Child. At the time I had wondered whether these things could be. Now I remembered and believed, saying over and over in my mind, ‘With God, all things are possible.’
Presently the Master removed His hands from the tree trunk and turned again to us. With an infinitely tender gesture He gathered us within the circle of His arms, looking down so lovingly at us that we forgot our surroundings, our angel and Joseph standing by.
“Do you not think that tree will be glad to yield itself to Me?” He asked. “Learn, then, when you think of the wood being fashioned beneath My hands into even greater usefulness, that man should yield to Me in just that way. I am the King and Lord of Love! It may seem to them that they will lose something in the yielding – some cherished dream, perhaps, or something of the freedom they had come to expect. They may even be set aside from the world by infirmity, or hidden from the greater achievements by silent, humble service. Learn, then, from the free yielding of this mighty tree! Can men not trust themselves to the Divine Carpenter, to be fashioned into greater usefulness and beauty according to His Love, and His need of them? As for lost dreams – they have but ‘died’ and passed into eternity. Men will find them all – and more – in Heaven. Children, dear, learn well this lesson and tell men so.”
With a final blessing, He withdrew His hands, and turning to Joseph, went slowly down the path with him towards their workshop. We watched Him until He was out of sight, and then our angel broke the happy silence. “Let us sing a hymn of thanksgiving.” As we began, the birds flew down and joined their song to ours.