Light Gives Life
2015, Oil on Canvas, triptych, 60in x 36in each
A single aspen grove is believed to be the largest living organism in the world comprised of identical genetic makers and a massive underground root system. A clonal colony of a single male quaking aspen is called a “Pando,” Latin for “I spread.” Aspen trees grow by the vegetative method, meaning their roots grow near the surface. Their roots expand out and when those roots feel the sunlight, they will send up new chutes that grow into new trees. The largest identified “Pando” is found in Utah, made up of about 47,000 tree trunks, covering over 100 acres of land. Researchers estimate it weighs around 13 million pounds.
The beauty of an aspen grove is found in the eye-shaped markings uniquely decorating each individual tree. The mystery lies in the fact that while no aspen tree in a “Pando” is identical on the outside, they all have identical DNA. Genetically they are the same being or each part of it is a “clone” of the main being.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).
“For you created me in my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:12-14).
Parallel to aspen trees, no two human beings are identical on the outside yet are all created in the image of God. The beauty and mystery remain that while all individuals are matchlessly created, all of humanity can be traced back to one source, God.
“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139:15)
As aspen roots in the darkness beneath the earth seek sunlight, so also man longs for meaning and purpose in life. A root breaks ground and sends forth a new chute when light is found; a man finds new life when he finds the light of Jesus Christ.
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12).
Once a root finds the light, a new chute springs up into the light and matures to a vital tree that is sustained by the nourishment produced from the light. In the same way, once a man finds and believes in Jesus Christ, the light of life, he will be given eternal life and will be sustained by the light of the Holy Spirit dwelling within him.
No aspen tree can grow alone. No man can attain victory over death alone. No aspen tree can grow without light. No man can gain eternal life without the light of Jesus Christ.
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light” (John 3:19-21).
If a root remains underground in darkness for fear of the light, it will never produce life nor grow to its fullest potential. Is it any different for man?
“Whoever believes in the Son [Jesus Christ] has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” (John 3:36).
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:23-24).
The gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ is free; no man can work for salvation. This is clearly illustrated in nature as the frail sprout develops and ages into a sturdy aspen tree able to withstand the pressures of life. The little sprout can no more work for the sunlight as it can grow without it.
Even in the presence of Light there are no guarantees of ease or comfort. The stress, dangers, and temptations of life cannot be avoided. After receiving the Light of Life, both an aspen sprout and a new believer are vulnerable to attack and potential destruction.
In Mark 4 highlighting these dangers to his twelve disciples, Jesus explains his parable of the sower as follows:
“’The farmer sows the Word [the gospel message]. Some people are like seed along the path, where the Word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the Word that was in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the Word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the Word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the Word, but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires of other things come in and choke the Word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the Word, accept it, and produce crop – some 30, some 60, some 100 times what was sown’” (Mark 4:13-20).
Even when a root finds light or a man accepts the Word of God, there will be opposition against growth and prosperity. Yet a crucial reality is found in 1 Corinthians:
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The harsher the conditions and the greater the storm, the wider the roots grow and the stronger the tree becomes. With Christ, deep trials and hardships also strengthen the character of a man.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-5).
God created every man in His own image. Every aspen tree in the grove has identical genetic makers.
Jesus Christ is the Light of Life. Roots grow underground until they find sunlight and produce a sprout, which is the beginning of life for a tree.
Man rejected the light because of sin. If a root never finds light, it will never produce new life.
Those who turn from darkness and believe in Jesus Christ will indeed receive eternal life and walk in light. Only by light can a root produce a tree and only with light can a tree sustain life.
Once in the light of Christ, we will be tempted, but will always be given a way to overcome because God is faithful. A tree will endure severe storms, grazing wildlife and seasons of drought, but by the nutrients from light and wide roots, the tree will be proven stronger.