Planting a Tree, Part 2

Dan Greene, Senior Pastor at Cape Bible Chapel, shares his recent tree planting experience and the seven reflections it brought to mind. Part 1 was posted on Monday and can be found here:

4. You can only do what you can do

I dug the hole, prepared the soil, set the tree, backfilled the hole, staked off the tree, and watered it; all that remained was the waiting. I have no control over what happens next, for only God can grow a tree.

We had prayed and planned and planted and watered in Christopher’s life. Truly, it was 1 Corinthians 3:6 lived out: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.”

About three months ago, my wife called me at the office in the middle of the afternoon. I’ll never forget that strained moment, for she was crying so hard she couldn’t get a coherent word out. I braced myself for her to gather enough control to say whatever tragedy had befallen us, and I prepared myself to comfort and reassure despite whatever impending doom was uttered. But the words wouldn’t come, so I raced home to have her reveal, still weeping, “Christopher called and said he found God!”

After about an hour long phone conversation with Christopher, I was convinced that, more accurately, God had indeed found Christopher! Now I got to join my wife in the crying! These big joyful sobs that meant one thing: The tree had taken root! We had nothing to do with that part, for only God can grow a tree. And indeed, it is a thing to behold.

5. It’s always messy

Planting a tree gets you muddy—your pants, your shirt, your hands. As I’m writing this, it is impossible to ignore my hand gripping the pen—the dirt still taking refuge beneath my fingernails. Whatever I do, I can’t seem to wash it out. Planting trees is messy. That’s part of why I like it.

Unsurprisingly, Christopher admitted several addiction problems. He was open and honest about them, and excited to be free from them. I share a similar background and he knew that from my testimony. So we got real honest about our dirt. Our mess. It wasn’t pretty, but that is what makes it so beautiful, when Jesus sets us free from it. And in order to plant spiritual trees, you have to be willing to get your hands dirty. It is rarely done in suit and tie or stiletto heels. It is messy. It is beautiful.

6. Expect big things

When I picked the spot for my mom’s Weeping Cherry, I anticipated the space it would need when it matured. You might say I was looking at it through the eyes of faith because I expected big things.

When Christopher called to tell us he was saved, I have to be honest, my first thought was, “I hope this is real.” And my ensuing thoughts weren’t a lot more ambitious: “I hope he hangs in there” and “Here we go . . .” But now that the initial shock and excitement has settled in, I have chosen to take on a different perspective. I’m making space for what Christopher is going to be as he matures. You see that is what trees do—they grow. Lisa and I are praying and anticipating the many ways that Christopher is going to be used by God to influence and impact others. We’re expecting big things!

7. Enjoy the view

Do you know what I did after planting the trees in my mom’s yard? Even though I was beat and filthy, desperately needing a shower and supper, I sat there on the lawn. I just sat there gazing at those trees. Then I got up and inspected them; I wanted to see them from every angle. I was admiring the work, the product, the process . . . all of it. Even now, I still find myself occasionally creating a “detour” in order to go back and revisit the trees.

We still pray for Christopher every night. Now the prayer has a different element added in, this joyous element of praise and thanksgiving. And we will soon see him for the first time since he was spiritually planted. He is going to spend a few days on the beach with us in Tampa. We can’t wait to just sit and marvel at the view. We may even find time to look out at the ocean and shoreline, but the majority of our gaping will be at our son, this new creation in Christ!


Those are some lessons I’ve garnered from planting trees. But there is one more, and it is one I love. When I plant a tree, it is always one at a time.  Dig one hole and backfill one hole. I stake one tree and plan for one tree’s growth. If I were to view a hundred acre plot of land and be told to fill it, the task would be daunting. But still, I would start with one tree. I would repeat these steps for each tree. Who knows the forests God has in mind to use you to plant? But no matter what He has planned, it all starts with one tree.

So, with that in mind, do you want to plant a tree? Do want to work hard upfront, then sit back and marvel at the way God will work? Perhaps if we all get started on the planting, someday soon we won’t be able to see the forest for all the trees.

When it comes to planting trees, really, there isn’t anything else quite like it.

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