The summer after my second grade year, I fell from a tree. No one knows how far up I was, it’s estimated that I was thirty to forty feet above the ground. At least that’s what they tell me. I can’t remember any of it.
Evidently, an ambulance came and picked me up, taking me to Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio; again, I’m sorry I “missed” that. It would have been cool to see an ambulance drive through our yard. Then I was unconscious at the hospital for a week or two, I’m not sure how long exactly. Again, I can’t remember any of it. I’ve seen some pictures of me in the hospital, but that’s about it. The fall knocked the memory of this event clear out of my head.
I’m usually a very careful climber, so I’m not sure what went wrong that summer afternoon (or was it morning?). My brother and I were playing in the woods together, as we usually did. My guess is that a branch broke, in my zeal to get to the top.
While I don’t have a memory of “the tree,” my guess is that you do. You remember the tree, though not the one in Northeastern, Ohio. The tree that we all remember was in the Garden of Eden. It’s the tree we’re aching for and, therefore, searching for. It’s the Tree of Life, which God banned our first parents, Adam and Eve, from discovering.
The Tree of Life is in the collective memory of humankind. It’s “home.” It’s the place of longing, the place of dreams, the place we’re searching for, beneath and behind everything we do. Love. Life. Joy. Meaning. Significance. Relationship. Eternity. Beauty.
Unlike my tree, none of us can shake the memory of our Tree. Though we’ve fallen from it, we desperately want to find it. But is it still there? In other words, can any human have the deepest desires of the heart met?
It’s curious to note that the cross of Jesus was also known as “the tree” (Galatians 3:13, 1 Peter 2:24, Acts 5:30). Jesus died on the tree. Jesus was broken by the curse on the tree. The tree meant death for Jesus—but life for us. At the same moment, it was both a place of cursing and blessing, of death and life. The tree of the cross is the new Tree of Life, the portal through which we return to the Garden of Eden, the very Paradise of God—home.
Through the cross, we find God. We find life. Our longings and dreams meet their object at last.
© Samuel Kee, 2011