Barbara Walters is infamous for asking Katherine Hepburn, “What kind of tree are you?” Of course, Hepburn actually said she was a tree before Walters followed with this question, but the strangeness of the question carried the day. There have been quite a few laughs at her expense because of this question over the years. Even though this wasn’t her actual question, maybe it wasn’t so bad to begin with. After all, the prophet Jeremiah was asking this same question some 2,600 years ago!
In Jeremiah 17:5-10, the prophet asks, “What kind of tree are you?” Yet, he suggests there are really only two kinds of trees: shrubs in the desert and trees planted by water. Are you the kind of tree that is only a shrub in the desert, the kind that barely survives in dry wastelands or withers in Tel-Malah, the uninhabitible salt lands? You are if you place your trust in your own strength, Jeremiah says. On their other hand, perhaps you are a tree planted by water. If you trust in the Lord, the you are blessed. It is as if you send out roots to a never-ending stream. You’ll not have to fear the heat or drought, because your source of growth, comfort, and stability comes from the very source of all creation.
Far too often, I’m a shrub in the desert. I rely on my own strength, energy, and perseverance. Instead of sending out roots to the unimaginable source of all strength, I think I can tough things out. Instead of prayerful renewal, I rely on self-sufficient insufficiency. Yet the prophets get it right. Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. May God grant me the courage and wisdom to turn from self-sufficiency to God-sufficiency every day of my life.