Why The Juniper?
One day, as I was praying about starting a blog, I read Psalm 104. I realized that every time I had read a passage like this one, I had mentally skipped over the different plant types that were mentioned. I don’t know what caught my attention this time, but I decided to stop and research cedars, junipers and hyrax to figure out what they were and why they might be significant.
“The trees of the Lord are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the junipers. The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.” Psalm 104:16-18
To be honest, I didn’t find anything super interesting about cedars, but the juniper caught me by surprise. I’ve never been very good with plants (I have actually had plants confiscated by my younger brother, because I wasn’t taking care of them properly) and I can only identify maybe a handful of them. However, I can say that I am a plant enthusiast! Walking through the woods, surrounded by trees is one of my favorite places to be and the Reynolda gardens in Winston Salem have been my haven for years. So when I read about the juniper tree I got pretty excited about what I found.
There are 60 species of junipers that grow all over the world, even in the arctic! They only require a little bit of rain, and in dry climates they will grow out in open spaces to be able to absorb the maximum rainfall. Because of the way their root system was created, they can grow on rocky and harsh foundations.
Junipers are coniferous and produce oil, berries, and needles, which are harvested by people and animals. According to some of the scripture in the Old Testament, their wood was also desirable. The walls of the temple were built with cedar wood, but covered with juniper wood paneling. Solomon also had two doors constructed from juniper wood for the temple. Today the wood is still sought after for woodworking and furniture because it's easy to sculpt and has a rich color.
Currently, there is a fungus that is killing many juniper trees in the UK and compromising their population there. This particular fungus attacks the roots of the tree, weakening the entire plant.
Now to my epiphany about Juniper trees... wouldn’t it be amazing to live created with the ability to adapt and grow in any location? Not needing much, just some sustenance, you grow to provide shelter for those around you. Fear isn’t a concern, so you grow out in the open because that is where the source of your life can be absorbed at the greatest capacity.
Life as a Christian seems awfully like a Juniper tree. When I looked up pictures of junipers, nothing jumped out at me. They aren’t spectacular looking trees, yet their lives are remarkable! I feel like I found my spirit animal… or plant! Not only do I know that God, my source of life, is capable of providing a way for me but He also desires to use me to help other people. My life is not my own, but His, so I want to produce useful thoughts, attitudes, hobbies, and expenditures of money that can benefit the people around me. Ultimately, I want to be that tree on the rocky soil that may look like it’s alone, but is fully content. However, staying with the tree analogy... we have to recognize that our biggest threat is letting infection enter our roots. Letting lies into the foundation of our faith is the surest way for us to fall. To be used by God, we can’t lose our focus on the source of our strength, Jesus.
So, My prayer is to live more like a juniper tree, relaxing in the strength of my Creator, knowing that He has given me everything that I need to not only grow, but to produce fruit for those around me. Fear of the unknown has no place in my relationship with God, my job isn’t to know everything; it’s to grow, be obedient, find joy in the adventure, love everyone in my path and rest in His peace.
May we grow like junipers,