Tree of Life
I CONTINUED TO further inspect these liberal ideas as my grandfather returned home and I prepared for the release of my first book. I even dusted off the bible my mother gave to me for my confirmation to see if I could find any more information to validate these theoretical claims. I was hesitant to tell anyone about my research because I was afraid of what they may think. I didn’t want to be labeled some born again Christian.
Digging further into the alternative suggestions, the distorted pieces started to fit. I still wasn’t sure how they lined up, but as I configured the detached fragments around the edges, I couldn’t help but look further toward the center of the distinct impression. The deceptive illusion on the outside of the box was showing a glorified depiction of a man, but the pieces on the inside were showing a different picture I could only comprehend with my new mind.
Searching for definitive answers, I struggled to make sense of what existed outside of the dirty window I was conditioned to leave closed. I wanted to reach through and explore the warm rain on my upturned palm but was afraid to unlock the stained window and feel pure intention pass through my reversible inhibition.
I thought back to the last time I felt the refreshing rainfall on my extended hand when I was looking for an answer. I didn’t struggle or fight with the question but just asked the question and let the silence guide my search.
Within this idea of silence my exploration of different meditation techniques expanded into my daily routine. I even went to a meditation class to see if I could gain any insight into how to better enhance its benefits.
To be in complete silence is an extremely frightening place to experience when you first close your eyes. There is nowhere to hide when you decide to go into the silence. It’s only you and your innermost thoughts. If your distorted reflection shows weakness, you will not want to stay long.
You will devise a dramatic story to tell yourself it has no benefit because the unilateral pain is too difficult to explore. That’s why so many of us use external distractions like television, social media, and drugs to combat the silence that has no sympathy.
When I first started to practice the art of meditation, I didn’t last one minute. My unwanted thoughts would rage back and forth creating a feeling of anxiety that would force me to get off the uneven floor. Sitting in complete silence is not as comfortable as it sounds when you are trying to escape from yourself.
Every morning I would try again, but each time I would fail. I could not figure out what I was doing wrong. My confusion was interrupting the silence as I heard the short quick breaths coming from my nostrils like the increased heartbeat of a frightened child afraid to look under his bed.
When I decided to focus on my breathing and not my thoughts, I found a connection to the space between the confusion. When my breath was the focus, I got lost in the freedom of its simplicity.
I desperately wanted to tell someone what I thought I found but I couldn’t get the nerve to express my new-found beliefs. My brother was about to turn twenty-one, and I was struggling to figure out what to get him for a gift. I came up with a couple of good ideas but couldn’t decide between an inspirational book or an old Beatles vinyl record I found. One could give him specialized knowledge, and the other could lift his rebellious spirit.
I debated which one he needed more when I realized the gift I started to open might have the ability to empower him if he understood it’s already in his possession. I decided I wouldn’t place his present in a closed box, but I would give him the available knowledge to open the voluntary box.
I was unsure how to articulate my new beliefs in God when I picked him up one morning. I just told him I wanted to go for a drive and talk about life. My hometown has a ton of history and spectacular landscapes, so I had the perfect destination in mind as we headed east. Recently I found a historic lighthouse overlooking the limitless ocean where I would sit for hours to write and explore the depths of my soul.
Driving down the winding road, I felt the sudden wind blowing up against the car as the sound of crashing waves expanded towards the shore. I knew we were getting close, but I had no idea how I was going to approach him with my new impression of God. I even slowed my acceleration to give me time to open the intimate conversation.
I wasn’t even sure what I found, but I knew I needed to explore the information and verbalize this insane idea that we are all connected to God. I saw the unmanned lighthouse approaching as my heart was going boom boom boom. I instinctively looked down at my phone in the consul and asked my brother to unlock my phone and turn on my favorite tune by Peter Gabriel.
Solsbury Hill is my favorite song of all time, and it has been that way for as long as I can remember. I have always felt an emotional connection to the song but until recently I never actively listened to the lyrics.
The words touched me differently lately, so I asked my brother to crank the volume and listen to the song for himself. I believed the lyrics held a hidden meaning I was beginning to understand.
We drove the rest of the way in silence as the words floated throughout the car. Each word that pounded from the vibrating speakers provided me with united strength. We arrived at the lighthouse, and the infinite ocean was upon us. I felt an inherent connection stepping out of the machine. I was ready to speak the truth I was afraid to free. Over the next nine minutes, I proceeded to tell my brother my interpretation of the song and everything I was reading around a person’s connection to God.
I explained in detail how I believed our thoughts and beliefs, the words we use to describe ourselves and our imagination might be our everyday conversation with God.
His squinting eyes glazed over as the expression on his face mirrored the image of skepticism I was desperately avoiding. I tried to answer his numerous questions to the best of my knowledge but to be honest, I was still trying to put the pieces together.
When we pulled up to his house a few hours later, I could see there was a burning question he wanted to ask me. It had nothing to do with our previous conversation but about his distant relationship with his father. He was having a hard time letting go of the resentment building after his parent’s separation. There were no visible tears, but I could tell there was a huge weight holding him down as he looked in my direction.
“What should I do about my dad?”
I sat for a moment unsure how to respond before a word flashed before my mind. It was the same familiar word that was continually appearing as I explored the concept of God. Looking back into his glassy eyes, I said something I didn’t anticipate.
Sitting side by side, I told him that forgiveness might be the only path to free himself from the unnecessary pain and suffering he was experiencing. The act of forgiving was not for his father but for himself. The freedom of the action would not only release his internal pain but build a new relationship that wouldn’t exist holding on to the past.
His father’s decisions may have been wrongheaded but to judge any person was misguided. Forgiveness would not only free himself from chronic pain but create a new relationship with his father.
With Christmas right around the corner, I felt such a strong spirit of togetherness. It wasn’t only my favorite time of year, but this Christmas was uncommon as it was the first time in ten years we had the opportunity to celebrate with our families.
I decided to cease my attempts to find a publisher and self-publish my work. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task to reach my lofty goals without the backing of a legit publisher, but I couldn’t wait a lifetime for someone to take a chance on my book.
I was going to release my private thoughts and let the chips fall where they may.
When the author copy of my book arrived at my front door, I turned into a spoiled child ripping open the sealed package in anticipation of what was inside. My book laid right beside the mangled brown wrapping paper as I thought back to all the early mornings and long hours I put into my dream of writing a book.
I snatched it from the crowded kitchen table with my right hand and went to sit in front of our newly decorated Christmas tree. I could smell the forced air floating from the inside of each chapter as I used my thumb to fan out the pages like a child’s cartoon comic book.
I rubbed my sweaty fingers over the glossy cover to make sure it was real. Placing it under the artificial Christmas tree, I flashed back to all the unguarded moments over the last six months that lead to its sobering realization. My finished book was in my hand, and I could finally touch, smell and feel my unspoken thoughts.
I sat in front of the green tree for over an hour randomly taking the book in my hand to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It wouldn’t exist without one thought and one decision. I could touch the printed pages because of a creative idea that originated in an invisible world I could only feel.
Placing the book back under the tree for the third time my attention shifted to the tiny star sitting high above the store-bought ornaments we randomly set the night before. We only unboxed the tree a few days back, and no gifts were under the loosely separated branches.
The only thing I could see when I looked under the pre-lit tree was my unwrapped book. I looked at the light once more and felt a sense of sudden hope shining through each branch I purposely positioned.
The significance of the season and symbols of Christmas started to take on a new meaning as I gazed upon the fixed star. Like the three wise men who were inspired to follow the Christmas star, my new-found hope and rediscovered passion became the distant star I was following.
Was my love for writing a gift from God? Staring with an intense curiosity into the light, I thought of all the great treasures God left under the tree of life.
I thought of all the civilized people around the world putting up their own Christmas tree unaware of the gifts God has placed underneath their hearts. When I rose from the tree and reflected on its significance, I decided I was going to release my book Christmas Day. Everything was ready, but until that moment I wasn’t sure the actual date.
There were only a few people that read the final draft, so my hesitation to pick a day stemmed from my fear of how it would be received. I had a big piece of my soul and new beliefs wrapped inside the pages so exposing myself like a newborn child was a horrifying thought.
Sitting in front of my computer a couple of days before Christmas I looked at the publish button like it was a doorway into my soul. Placing the three corners of the arrow over the publish button my right index finger tapped uncontrollably and synced to the vibration of my left foot.
All I had to do was click on a controlled mouse, but the fear of opening this door made my stomach turn. Stepping away I went to the kitchen sink to splash some cold water on my face.
I had my right hand placed over my left as the icy water filled my connected hands. I tossed each cupful into my face and aggressively wiped my eyes. I did this a dozen times before I stepped back in front of the computer.
I dug deep inside of myself and looked my weakness dead in its eye. I turned into another and dug up the better part of myself. I hit that button and stood back with my arms behind my back as fear stood behind me in disbelief. It was written, it was done.
While my wife and I prepared for Christmas Eve service, I found the freshly pressed shirt she put out for me. I hadn’t been to church on Christmas Eve in many years, but when I put my arm one by one into the sleeves and covered my naked chest, I felt the cover of warmth. My entire family was present as we anticipated the celebration waiting for us after the service.
The last time I was in church, I only saw around twenty-four patrons in the pews, but on the eve of the birth of Jesus Christ, it was full of faithful participants. I felt so much peace watching my family interact with each other inside of spontaneous laughter and love.
When my reverend started to speak, and we moved to our seats, I saw a sign I never noticed before. I’m pretty sure it was hanging there since I was a kid, but my new-found eyes couldn’t look away. I stared intensely in the direction of the printed words as if someone started to speak them into my idle thoughts.
Directly above my head stood a sequence of words that seemed like they fell from the cross.
“He that receiveth you receiveth me.”
How did I not see these words the last time I stood in the same place? The entire church congregation disappeared as I contemplated these biblical words. I then looked to my right, and another sign shifted my attention.
“He that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me.”
I tapped my brother on his shoulder and pointed to the banners to watch him read the words. When he looked back in my direction, all I could do was smile. He saw the same words uncovered on either side of the cross.
Waking up Christmas morning was so different than years past. Not only was my daughter old enough to enjoy the gifts Santa Claus left under the tree but we were about to spend the day with our families. She laid sound asleep on her bed as we stood above her waiting for the moment she decided it was time to open her eyes.
I couldn’t wait any longer to see the joy on her face, so I leaned down and softly whispered in her ear. It took her a few minutes to comprehend the words I was muttering but when she realized the gifts were waiting she rushed to discover the goodies perfectly placed.
She wasn’t sure where to start so she grabbed the biggest box and ripped off the brown wrapping paper with pure emotion. I had such a feeling of satisfaction watching her eyes light up as she realized Santa was real.
The wish list she wrote to him a few weeks prior was now a reality. With each gift, her belief in this imaginary figure was confirmed.
My wife also had a special gift she wanted to give to me that morning. We decided a couple of months ago to try for our second child. Opening the last couple of gifts, she said there was one gift left for me. I looked around the base of the tree but couldn’t find anything. She didn’t want our daughter to hear her words, so she whispered the gift into my ear.
The seed we decided to plant months before was now a reality. Our new child was resting comfortably. It was only the size of a poppy seed, but placing my hand on my wife’s stomach, I could feel its presence.
I couldn’t see its face and its name I didn’t know, but the gift of my unborn child was the most magnificent Christmas present. We decided before we moved home we would try for our second child but to hear the news on Christmas morning was perfect. I felt so complete as I went about my day. The most significant day of the year was the same day I became a father once again. The tree of life gave me another gift on a day designed for birth.