Tree of life

This item was posted a while ago, on 6 May 2019.

Ann Persson introduces a creative reflection which will help us take stock of our lives

This article was published in the May to August 2019 issue of Rapport magazine.

There is great value in taking time out from a busy life to reflect on your life as it is at present. This is an exercise that I have found very helpful in being able to do just that. It uses the analogy of a tree as a way of understanding what makes up your life. It needs time, preferably at least half a day and a quiet space in which to work.

You will need an A3 sheet of paper, a pencil and probably a rubber. Before drawing ask yourself whether your tree is wide and spreading or tall. Use your paper either horizontally or vertically.

You might ask yourself some questions as you draw your tree and reflect on your life situation.

  • What is the season of the year?
  • What is the prevailing weather?
  • What are the soil conditions (the environment I live in)?
  • And what species of tree might it be?

Draw a line for the surface of the soil and then draw the roots of the tree. Ask yourself who or what it is that roots you and nourishes you in life. Label the roots.

Next draw the trunk. Take time to think what the main branches of interest and activity are for you and draw them sprouting from the trunk. Label the branches. You will probably find that some of the words that you have written on the roots e.g. family, will also be on a main branch.

Each main branch will have sub branches which are the more particular aspects of the activity you have selected. If you want to be even more thorough, you can draw leaves to indicate the tasks that are necessary for each small branch – and be sure to label everything.

When you have finished mapping it all out, take a while to reflect on who you are. Then write on the trunk what you think is your main calling in life, e.g. mine is ‘a facilitator’. What is yours? We did it as a Bible study group, but working separately, and amongst us we had a carer, a pioneer, a team player, an encourager, a practical person, an artist and a dreamer.

Questions to ask yourself when you have completed your drawing

  • Are any branches damaged, dead, or broken off?
  • Are there any scars on my tree – past hurts or bereavement etc?
  • Is my tree bearing fruit?
  • Is it offering shelter, rest, food, life for others?

When you have finished the exercise, take a long look at your tree and make some observations.

  • Which areas give me energy and enjoyment, even though they may be hard work?
  • Which bits are energy demanding and draining?
  • Which bits are downright unpleasant?
  • Which areas are squeezed, so that there is not enough space for them?
  • How do I recharge my batteries?

A walk with God

Lastly, in your imagination, walk with God in a garden and when you approach your tree let Him look at it, ponder it and comment on it. Listen and write down what you think you hear.

On a card, write down the specific steps that you might need to take to follow God’s comments and make some changes in your life. There may be none to make.

A prayer

I give myself to you, Lord,
All that I am,
All that I have been,
All that I hope to be.
I give myself to you.

As a Bible study group, we used our findings to share more deeply with one another. It gave us the opportunity to understand each other more and to be able to pray for one another. We were all so excited about the effects of the exercise that we decided to work together on the tree of Jesus’ life. What or who was it that rooted Him? What did He say that He came to do or to be? There are several Scripture verses to draw on and these we wrote on the trunk.  As a result of His calling, what were His chosen main branches of activity and the small branches that were attached? What for Him were the soil conditions and the prevailing weather? Were there any branches broken off, e.g. His cousin – John the Baptist? What did His tree offer to others?

It was a delight to work on it together and between us we produced a magnificent drawing of Jesus’ tree.

Ann Persson and her late husband Paul used their former home, Highmoor Hall, in Oxfordshire, as a retreat house and a centre for creativity. She is now engaged in spiritual direction and has written two books for the Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF): The Circle of Love and Time for Reflection.