Trees. I am intrigued with the beauty, uniqueness, majesty and endurance of this form of plant life. I'm also amazed at what tree life can communicate about spiritual life.
Subalpine Firs. The pictured trees are clustered at a scenic viewpoint along one of my favorite hiking trails in Glacier National Park. I think of them as a trinity of trees, a natural fellowship of firs. The photo is from 2006 and my wife and I have hiked the same trail several times since. For years I noticed no substantial change in these trees. There's a reason for this observation.
Growth. It's very slow in subalpine firs. These mountain beauties are found at or slightly below the tree line. The environmental conditions are harsh - cold temperatures, strong winds, short summers, rocky soil - so they just don't grow much in any one season or even in any one decade. With such conditions it is a wonder they grow at all. But the reality is subalpine firs do grow. They are hardy, beautiful and enduring despite the conditions, ...and because of the conditions.
Hope. Living hope, supernatural hope is much the same. God can grow this kind of hope in us despite the conditions and because of the conditions of our lives. Apostle Paul has written about this process: suffering and struggles produce endurance, endurance produces character and character produces hope - a hope which will not disappoint (Romans 5:3-5, ESV).
It's a Long Process. Subalpine firs take a long time to grow and human spiritual growth also is a lengthy process. Our spirituality (defined as our relationship with God and how we express that relationship in life) is never static. We are either developing or deteriorating, forming or deforming. Life can be hard and we regularly contribute to the harshness through our own poor choices. But God is passionate about developing something good out of something bad, about giving us a good future despite a troubling past and present. Hope can grow - does grow - in harsh conditions. Look beyond the lesson of the trees to the Christian Trinity - God the Father, Jesus the Son and God the Holy Spirit - to bring you hope and transformation... both despite the conditions and because of the conditions of your life.