I always thought Forest was a strange name for someone to name their child. I really don’t understand why people name their girls Jezebel, but that’s another story. I also don’t think that it is possible to hear the name Forest without thinking “Run Forest, RUN!!!” Just a product of my generation I guess.
Our word for this year is “cultivate” and this has led to me thinking about forests and trees a lot lately. (You can read about having a word of the year in Cory’s blog). I like words. They are lovely things just waiting to be explored. We don’t think about the words we use nearly enough. Think about the word “Forest” for just a moment. There is something very magical about it, or perhaps mystical. If you allow it, it will cast a spell on you and place a longing inside of you. It draws. It calls. It invites. It has a feeling of being very distant and beckoning you to come to it, to prepare for the journey to reach it. You can feel the life that is in the word. It is very earthy, warm and cold at the same time. Compare it with a word like “city” or “arctic”. These words have a charm of their own, but they are not warm and cold at the same time. “Arctic” is cold. It is surface level, not deep at all. The sound of it comes from your mouth. “Forest” is deep, the sound of it comes from your lungs and you breathe it out of your mouth. “City” may be inviting you but it is clear that you need to bring your own life to it. It will supply you with nothing but a location. “Forest” however will give you everything you need once you get there, it knows when you are coming and it is prepared. It calls you to come and it promises stillness for the soul, it is in fact “For Rest”.
Our story begins in a garden, a forest teeming with life and potential. We were given the responsibility and privilege of taking care of it, to make sure that everything grew the way it was intended to. You know the story. Soon we found ourselves evicted from the garden and sent out into the world. Our location may have changed, but our vocation never did. We still have the responsibility and privilege of cultivating the forests, but it looks a little different now. The land that we have authority over is our own lives, our souls. We are to cultivate the soil of our souls and become walking forests. You are a garden, you are a walking forest.
That’s a crazy thought, isn’t it? A walking forest. Not merely a walking tree, I can fathom that… thanks to Lord of the Rings and Treebeard. But to think that I am a forest… a walking forest on display for others to see and enjoy. It is almost too hard. But what if it were true? What if you could become an Eden? I think that you can. And not only that, I think that you are supposed to. It is the original vocation calling you back. Calling you forward.
But how do we grow this forest?
First, you must cultivate the soil. If the soil isn’t prepared nothing will be able to grow. Maybe the soil is hard and needs to be broken up. Maybe the soil is shallow and rocky and is in need of some nurturing. Maybe you are overrun by weeds that are robbing the soil of all of the nutrients intended for the trees, remember to remove the weeds from the roots or they will keep coming back and the roots will be stronger each time.
Second, you need to take stock of what you have growing already and survey the land. Maybe you have some amazing fruit trees but you haven’t seen any fruit from them in a long time, it is time to figure out why they don’t bear fruit anymore and fix the problem. Sometimes they just need some fertilizer and attention. Sometimes pests and rodents come and steal the fruit before it can grow. Sometimes the only answer is to cut it down and start all over. Whatever the problem, be intentional about taking care of it. Maybe you have some undeveloped land, vast expanses where nothing grows. Learn to see the potential in this. It is all good land if you will do the hard work of cultivating the soil. Your hands can bear fruit, but so can your mind, your legs, your feet, your back, your eyes, really all of you.
Third, you should figure out what kind of forest you were meant to be. If you are delighting yourself in the Lord, He will guide your desires so that they are in line with what you were created for (Psalm 37:4). What do you desire your forest to look like? What kind of trees do you want to grow? Well, once you figure that out you will need to get some seed from someone who has that growing in their lives; in their forest. This is the core of what true discipleship looks like. If you can’t find it in anyone in your life, you can always find it in Christ. Go to Him and he will supply all that you need, but it was His plan for you to get it from your brothers and sisters if you can so be sure to start there.
Fourth, you can’t do this without Jesus. I know some will be annoyed at this, but it is true. You may have found the seed, you may have cultivated the land, you may have watered it faithfully, but without God nothing good grows.
1 Corinthians 3:6-9 (NIV) 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
You are God’s field and his gardeners. Become a walking forest. Become a living Eden for all the world to see. Instead of trying to deforest the world in others, cultivate the Kingdom in you. Once the world sees the beauty of Eden in you they will choose to tear down the thornbushes, thistles, and weeds that they have allowed to grow in their soul and on their body. This is how the Kingdom grows, one seed at a time… one forest at a time.
You are a walking forest. Cultivate it and watch it grow. There is something magical, perhaps mystical about you. Let your forest call out to others and invite them into life.