Trees and the Rapture by the Caveat Queen
"In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning."--F. Scott Fitzgerald.
When I first read these words, it was as though I had been waiting for Fitzgerald to explain myself to me. Any worrier is an insomniac, and vice versa. I have been both since childhood. My earliest memories are of listening to wind whipping through the branches of the 300-year old oak tree outside my bedroom window. I would terrify myself with thoughts first of whether I had let the cat in, or left any toys out, and if not whether any or all would blow away. Then, as the hour grew later, my fears would turn to the tree itself. Not so much about any harm it could cause, strangely enough, as that would be the sensible thing to be afraid of, the heavy branches that could break off and smash windows, or if the whole thing came up, the damage it could do to the roof or the house itself. No, being the special variety of worrier that I was sprouting to be, my fears were centered on the terrible nature of the idea that this tree was so very old. Three hundred years…now how anyone knew its age while it was still standing, I do not know. This was just what I had been told, and at 5 years old, I wasn’t in any position to argue the point. When I considered this concept during the day, it didn’t really matter to me at all. I didn’t even really consider it anyway, as I swung on the plank that hung from two pieces of rope that my daddy had tied to one of its enormous branches, or ran around its base, chasing Timid Timothy, my kitten (so named after his look-a-like in my favorite book, and ironically he and the kitten in the story…and I…all shared kindred spirits which are probably obvious from the title.)
At night though, I considered that tree quite a lot. Three. Hundred. Years. My house wouldn’t have been built. Not the neighborhood even, not in 1672. I imagined just grass and trees, this tree just a sapling. I imagined a Native American child playing around it, although not in a swing, since the tree would have been too small. Then, I would begin to scare myself. Where is that child now? Dead. Long dead and gone. And three hundred years from now, where will I be? I will be dead. Not the tree, it will be here. Mom and dad had said how oak trees could live for hundreds and even over a thousand years. Oh, where would I be in a thousand years? Still dead. That’s a looong time to be dead, while this tree lives on, I would think. Finally I would sleep, but morning would come too soon, and my parents irritated that I had dark circles under my eyes again.
Having parents that didn’t believe in God, though I did as a child, made those nights so much longer. As I grew up and older, the fears about the tree, and what came with it, deepened. Questions about God and death were answered with a shrug and that there is “No God,” and “When it’s over, it’s over. Don’t worry about what you can’t change.” But I continued to search, and worry, and consider that tree.
I am still a worrier. I am a worrier on a grander scale than most people will ever achieve. Last night, I was up in the middle of the night (some things will never change) and when I went downstairs I found that although there were no kids in the room, the TV was on and all of the lights were on, as if someone had been there just moments before. I waited for a few minutes, to see if someone had just left to go to the bathroom and was coming back, but no one returned. My first concern was not that my irresponsible teenagers had gone to bed and left everything on, or even that a crime had been committed. I stood there looking around for piles of clothing, thinking that perhaps the Rapture had taken place and my kids had been taken up and I had been left behind. I came close to checking their rooms. Then I decided that if indeed they had been Raptured without me, I had better go to bed and get a good night’s sleep first. I could find out about it in the morning when I would be well rested enough to begin dealing with it. And that is what I did.
Obviously, I was not left behind, for which I am grateful and relieved, and my kids were amused that I would assume their Rapture before their irresponsibility. Although I still live life at 3 o’clock in the morning, and I still do a mental checklist when I hear a storm blowing in (cat-check, toys-check, etc), I do not fear the infinite nature of a very old tree anymore. Well, hold that thought. I can appreciate God’s creation now that I have permission to worship and study our Father and His plan for us. It has taken only perhaps 30 or so years of prayer, worship, study, and only about a lifetime or so left to figure out the rest of His will; but having the freedom, ability, and desire to explore what this all means is what makes all the difference. The difference between being able to see the beauty in the timeless nature of the oak tree, and being only terrified by it-whatever your oak tree is. Admittedly, the eternity thing is still a pretty freaky thing at 3 a.m., but that is what gets me out of bed to make sure I haven’t missed out on the Rapture.
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