I, Pinus contorta
I normally said it with a snort or a stupid grin. It’s a joke sometimes. “I’m gonna die here.”
Other times, I said it as I leaned back in my chair, hands in my hair, moaning at my homework smeared with too many eraser marks, “I am gonna die here!”
I found myself being the bitterest person on campus.
Because of my double major, I will be here for a total of six years, and during these first four years, things just never went quite right. I counted my blessings… but I also counted my burdens.
Financial issues? I got those. The smartest person in class? Nah. Familial problems? Tons. Before I knew it, I was stomping around campus with a storm cloud over my head and a nasty attitude in my heart. Why do things go wrong?
Because things had gone very wrong.
So, there I was every day, slipping into class, arms crossed, eyes to my shoes. I went through the motions—pulled out my homework, clicked my pencil to check for lead, asked the girl with the military-grade backpack for a 3x5 card—as the sweetest professor on campus told us about his weekend and the photograph on the projector screen.
But one day the picture wasn’t of his weekend with his grandkids. It was of a tree standing in a chasm, made small under the looming, orange cliff side.
I stared (glared, really) out the window instead. My mood as dark as the overcast day outside. I meditated on my problems like I always did while my teacher chatted away.
“Isn’t it amazing how trees like this grow in the desert?” I heard him say. “Did you know that in order for some seeds to germinate, they have to be crushed by rocks?”
You ever feel like God is tapping you on the shoulder? Yeah, this was like that.
I turned my gaze from the window—started with a frown at that great, green tree on the screen. Can someone say “conviction?” Revelation?
My teacher continued, “if it’s not smashed open, the seed remains dormant. It won’t grow.”
God was doing that thing again because I realized I was the bitterest, complaining Christian in the school. I was the bitterest, complaining seed. And that’s not really something fun to admit.
In botany, we learn of plants like Pinus contorta, whose cones have to be burned before the resin coating melts away and allows the seeds to germinate, take root, grow. When had my heart grown that same hard, resin film?
I realized immediately why I was so bitter. What I called burdens were my rocks, and I was cursing them every day because I did not want to be crushed. I wanted to be placed by the window with fresh, flowing air, watered regularly, enjoying the gentle sunlight.
But perhaps not everyone will grow that way.
God was never ignoring me. I just never looked at Him during these hardships that let me take root deep into the ground. To learn.
I was Pinus contorta, and I wanted to thrive—I just needed to trust God through all the falling rocks and fire.17