tattoos, acacia, & trust, oh my!

A bona-fide tree nerd moment for you –

Did you know there are over 800 different kinds of species of Acacia trees in the world? They thrive in warm, dry climates; mostly in Australia but also in the Americas and Africa. It’s one of my favorite trees. They are some kind of crazy beautiful. Not only do giraffes chew on their wood, but butterflies like hanging around them too! It’s not just me, I swear.[1]

More than that, they are referenced as the wood used in completion of the tabernacle for the Lord in the time of the wilderness for God’s redeemed people, the Israelites. Moses had come down from his time with the Lord on Mt. Sinai. He was glowing, said to be “radiant”, and communicated what the Lord had told the community to do. The intricacies of the tabernacle were planned and that did include the wood offered as well as other items like spices, linens, anointing oil, and onyx stones (Exodus 35: 20-29).

Verse 24 remarks, “Those presenting an offering of silver or bronze brought it as an offering to the Lord, and everyone who has acacia wood for any part of the work brought it.” Most excellent.

Perhaps that was the kind of durable, strong, highly regarded wood available during the wilderness wanderings. Either way, the fact that the specification was there certainly made me excited. It should probably be noted too that Acacia trees (and thus the wood) are some of the most firm materials around. They are solid.

I don’t think materials were placed and offered by accident. I think the wood was offered and used because it meant something.

After all, this was the tabernacle, the very sanctuary that would be used to glorify and worship the Lord.

God allows us to bring to Him what we have.

In the Old Testament, as with the construction of the tabernacle, God’s communion with His people was focused on tangible offerings of communal and individual possessions or objects. The story did change when God sent His son to be the sacrifice for human shortcomings, sin, mistakes, wrong-doings, flaws, and failures. His communion with us became the blood and body of Jesus Christ. But Jesus did something mind-blowing (true to his character) when he appeared to his disciples after his resurrection and proclaimed in John 20: 22-23,

“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

That’s right, we received the Holy Spirit (from Jesus!) which means that we are able to bring back to God what the Spirit develops within us as we are guided, submitted to, and following His word. This is bearing good fruit. And we can’t do it without remaining in our God in the first place. This is our new kind of offering to Him.

We can try to love – we can even think that we are doing a darn good job of it – but ultimately, we are incapable of a perfect kind of love, the one we see modeled before us. It’s not hard (in my mind) to understand why divorce, conflict, and tension are rampant in marriage and relationships these days. We don’t love well, y’all. I can include myself in that. When you love through God, though, the kind of possible love changes and grows into something far better. God loves nothing more than reconciliation. Look at the way He loves us!

That’s a big reason I got a black tattoo of an acacia tree on my right wrist. Below the tree is simple. It says, John 15:4.

IMG_20150729_184705

The translation reads, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you,” or if using a different translation, “Abide in me, and I in you.” Abiding is a bit of each: seeking, obeying, and trusting.

I got the tattoo not just because of this crazy tree love affair that God has used in my life to speak to me (and hello, all the amazing symbolism of wood, trees, and gardens), but also because it’s a reminder of the promise God has given to me – and I to Him. It’s a visual reminder, every day, of the offering I must give to Him. I must remain in Him, allowing Him to prune, shape, mold, and refine whatever He would like. That way, when I exist in this world, in isolation, in community, or in between, I will be the woman He knows me to be. I will be true to myself.

Plus, and I’m being completely honest here, it makes for great conversation starters. If you see a girl running around with a random tree on her wrist, ask her about it. There’s a story there, and certainly, there’s a story with all of us, tattoo or not. Don’t be afraid to share yours, and definitely, don’t be afraid to share what reminds you of the greater promises in store for you. Just keep with Him, He is doing something crazy, that’s for sure.

I’m packing for Africa again tonight. I’m sure I’ll see an Acacia tree, or 100. I’ll see them and smile, knowing a bit more. I’ll also look up, pray, and stay with Him, even when the journey gets hard.

Wait and see. Abide. Remain.

*

[1] “Acacia Trees,” 2020 Site, See it Clearly, 2012, http://www.2020site.org/trees/acacia.html/.

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