Have you ever noticed how the trees grow together in a forest? On a long road trip through Louisiana, I began to look at the trees growing on either side of the road. Tall trees growing thickly together fill the sides of the highway. Not like the expansive views we have driving across Texas. No, here it’s like the road was cut through a forest. At first glance, each tree seems to have that perfectly tapered tree shape. Perfectly tall, straight trunks, full leafy branches in all the right places to give the appearance of a perfectly trimmed tree. As if someone had been pruning and caring for each to grow them into such beauties.
That is, until I looked closer.
What I didn’t see at first glance is that these perfect-looking tree shapes have many trunks. They’re a grouping of trees that have grown in together, each filling in the blanks where the other is missing something. Growing together so closely in the forest, no one tree has the space to grow evenly in all directions. One side might have room to grow, but another will be stunted. One side receives the sun, but the back side is covered in shade. No one tree is perfect on its own. Instead, the trees come together to fill in the gaps.
Christian Community Fills In The Gaps
I began to realize this is how community works. Coming together to fill in the gaps and make each of us whole again. On our own, we’ll never be perfectly whole. Life doesn’t work that way. Somewhere along the way, we’ll lose some part of us, an area of growth will be stunted, a section will be damaged, a side will fall out of the sunlight.
Living in community means someone coming alongside us to fill in the gap. To walk next to us as we heal. To show us we can be whole again. To help us rebuild and regrow the broken parts. Christ is the ultimate healer and through a Christian community we can encourage and grow each other to know Christ and experience his healing power. We can find the hope that only Christ brings.
The trees stand as permanent supports for each other. They cannot step back to let each other grow. They’re only able fill out their weak spots if the tree next to them dies or is cut down. The tree that made them whole will eventually choke off their growth. The stunted and broken sides will forever be weak and imperfect. They can only appear whole from a distance, with the help of their fellow trees.
Christian Community Brings Us to the Healer and Gives Us Space to Grow
Unlike the trees, we can be healed and made whole through Christ. Community and friendship done well provide room for growth. As the one we’ve come along beside begins to heal, we step back to allow in the sun (the Son). We provide space for the branches to grow back in. As the growth takes form, we step back further, allowing the tree to take its full shape, for our friend to shine and stand again as whole – damaged perhaps, but regrown and made new.
We cannot be perfectly whole on our own, but with the help of community and the love of Christ, our broken and damaged parts can be made new again.
Who is your community? Are you plugged into a local church community and a group of friends? Who are you helping to heal and grow? How are you filling in the gaps for someone else? Let’s band together in Christian community, seeking the Son, the Great Healer, who can restore our hope and make us new again.