The Tree of Life

While driving home one day on a quiet stretch of highway, an unusual question (that had nothing to do with what I had been thinking) popped into my head: “Which way is the rod going?” it asked. It was a strange question and yet I immediately knew what it was referring to and was not able to put it out of my mind until I had answered it sufficiently.

Some people communicate with God through dreams or visions. Others find clarity in meditation. For me, instead of receiving answers, I often get more questions. “Which way is the rod going?” is an example of that. But I’ve learned that these ‘Questions from God’ direct me on a quest to answers I would have never found otherwise.

Most people have heard the metaphor of ‘The tree of life’ and probably the ‘straight and narrow path’ that supposedly leads to it. The Tree of Life is generally considered a symbol of immortality, happiness, or even God Himself. It is smack dab in the very center of the Garden of Eden in the very beginning of the bible, and not only that, but can be found in one form or another in almost every belief system in the world.

I’ve always been drawn to this mysterious and beautiful symbol. Lesser well known is the rod of iron that is said to run along the path that acts as a handhold for people trying to stay on the ‘straight and narrow.’ I grew up being taught that this solid and immovable iron rod represents the words of God that lead to the wondrous tree of life.

So, back to my question. “Which way is the rod going?” Handrails are usually known for being solid and sturdy. With the exception of escalators, their immovability is what makes them reliable.

But the question wasn’t “Is the rod moving?” The question was “Which way?”

To make matters worse: A second question came into my mind soon after: “Which way is the path going?”

Paths are also stationary things, but we often think of them as leading in a certain direction. I was almost certain that the path was ‘going’ toward the tree. And if the path, then shouldn’t the rod follow?

But I’d also been taught through a primary children’s song, that “the iron rod is the word of God”. And if the tree represented God, then wouldn’t that mean that his words were coming out from the tree toward us?

His words coming out and our feet on the path–our actions– taking us in toward the tree.

I decided I liked this.

I was then reminded of a talk I had heard years earlier by Richard D. Draper (a professor of ancient scripture) where he discussed the vision of John at the end of the bible where he sees ‘the Lord’. John describes the Lord in symbolic fashion saying that his hair was white like wool and his eyes were ‘as a flame of fire’. Then the part that stood out to me was a strange description of a ‘sharp two-edged sword’ that came out of the Lord’s mouth. Professor Draper explained that the original Greek wording implied that not just one sword but a steady stream of swords were continually issuing forth from the Lord’s mouth.

I then thought of the scripture in Hebrews chapter 4 verse 12 that reads,

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

My mental picture shifted from the iron rod as merely a handrail that we grip to a steady stream of double-edged swords or powerful truths that we can align our hearts with—penetrating us deeply and powerfully. This iron rod of perpetual truths not only teaches us, but purifies us as it pierces us to our very core—exposing every thought and desire of our hearts.

Then with God’s words pricking us in our hearts (Acts 2:37) we begin to walk the path that leads to happiness—symbolized by the tree of life.

At almost every sporting event someone can be seen holding up a sign that reads ‘John 14:6’. This, of course, may be the most well known verse of scripture that Jesus ever declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

With this in mind, I realized that the ‘way’ could be seen as another word for the path. The ‘truth’—as we’ve discussed—could be seen as the rod, and the ‘Life’ is The Tree of Life. So we could say it this way,

“I am the way [the path], the truth [the rod], and the Life [The Tree of Life]: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Which way is the rod going? Which way is the path going?

Which way am I going?

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