It was time, he explained, as he brought his business card to the door to warn us of the coming work in close proximity to our home. Cavities developing, branches dead, dying, and falling down meant that proper action was required for the sake of the tree and the people and homes nearby. Knowing it would soon disappear, I managed to remember to capture some images of the beautiful maple beforehand.
Plot maps show that we are not the "owners" of the tree, though it is much closer to our home than our neighbor's. Because of that, I always considered it ours. I didn't realize how attached to it I was until the warning came of its removal, and I began to go about my days wondering how the whole landscape and the view from several of my windows would be radically altered. I loved seeing how it would change dramatically throughout the seasons through this window at the top of our staircase ~ a first glimpse of the day upon waking and heading downstairs to make the morning pot of tea in the kitchen where the maple greets us again through the side window. She felt like a familiar friend. (We first met in 2002 when Robert discovered this little gem of a house for our family.)
But the workweek arrived and the progress was swift. Jamie, the foreman, saw me watching from the backyard and came over to talk. He took me to the tree and explained exactly why she needed to go, pointed out the poison oak that was making its way up her trunk, and assured me that all roots and divots in our yard would be smoothed out and covered over. Delighting in his unusual kindness, compassion, and thoroughness, I felt the freedom to ask if Kayla and I could count the rings when they got to the trunk.
"Of course," was his reply. "We always count the rings for our records, and I would guess that this one is about 130-140 years old."
My neighbor's new bumper sticker says this: "Wendy Davis for Texas State Governor 2014"
(Remember now, I live in Massachusetts. We're 2000 miles away from the Lone Star State.)
Wendy Davis made herself a national hero (to some) when she filibustered for hours recently to prevent the vote on a measure that would ban abortions in Texas after 20 weeks.
For many, the removal of a fetus is no different from the removal of a tree ~ a necessary and prudent choice. Both may be stricken with disease or deformity. Death may be inevitable for each. Ending their lives may seem an act of kindness. Both may prove to be an enormous inconvenience someday, therefore early intervention and prevention seems wise.
Though they sound like such similar predicaments, they are vastly different in God's eyes. In fact, one is not really a predicament at all ~ though it may seem like it at the time.
As Christians, the first task given to us by God is stewardship of the earth. The animals, the birds, the trees and other vegetation, the rivers, streams, and oceans ~ they are all ours to rule over, to subdue, and to make productive. The removal of a dying tree falls within godly stewardship of the created world.
God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
The same rule, however, does not apply to human life.
You shall not murder.
And even before we see it clearly in the Ten Commandments, we see it inherently after the creation mandate in Genesis after Cain murders his own brother Abel.
Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" And he said "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" He said, "What have you done?" The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground.
Genesis 4: 9-10
No, we don't have authority over the life or death of another human. God alone has that authority. Psalm 139 portrays well the preciousness of what is going on in the womb.
For You formed me in my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.
Psalm 139: 13-16
What is foolishly believed by my neighbor and all of Ms. Davis's platform supporters is that the right to end life will bring about true freedom and that this unqualified freedom is what is best for the women of our country. The strange thing is that we constantly limit "freedom" in this country for the sake of ourselves and our fellow countrymen. Our laws mandate that we not steal, speed, use or sell drugs, kill (those outside the womb), or trespass. Even smoking is now a severely limited freedom in this country. But to tell a woman what she can and can't do with her uterus ~ a thing that is actually quite risky, and harmful to herself physically and emotionally, not to mention the other human involved ~ is, oddly enough, a highly disdained position.
I'm pretty sure my neighbor is not genuinely concerned about the welfare of the state of Texas, and I think she's sadly mistaken regarding the welfare of the women and potential children of our country.
It's so very disheartening to me and a tragic sign of things to come that a majority of folks grieve the one (the loss of the tree) and celebrate the other (the loss of human life).
On Wednesday, when the final cut was made, there was a crowd in my driveway and traffic slowed on our busy downtown thoroughfare. One couple parked, got out, and took pictures. They requested a sliver of the trunk to show in their classrooms. Everyone wanted to marvel at the majestic life that had once been displayed in that tree. Several of us even gathered around, counted the rings, and celebrated the historical epoch the tree had witnessed in its 120 years. It was a proper tribute, a godly recognition of the natural world given to us by a loving Creator.
The aborted fetus gets no such fanfare. (And it probably shouldn't in this situation.) Though its life is quite short by comparison, its mutilated parts, in most cases, are quickly and mindlessly discarded. There is no celebration of the majestic and miraculous work which was in progress. Rather, the rejoicing is regarding the life that will never be, and the "freedom" the other seems guaranteed now that it's gone.
Most of the women I know (and I need two hands to count them) who've chosen to end their baby's life in utero are not celebrating, though. They are grieving. Some decades after the fact. Oh, they know they are forgiven, that "therefore, there is now no condemnation", but the ache remains. They would certainly never recommend their choice to another. In fact, one of those friends recently took in a young, single pregnant woman, shared her own experience, and took her in for a heartbeat and ultrasound appointment. The young woman made the decision to keep her baby. We all rejoiced and plans were made for her care and support in the process.
Not all women's hearts are aching though, and while that fact may be used as evidence in favor of the "right to choose," I wonder if it's an even more serious consequence in the form of a numbed and hardened heart. If lawmakers think this is a favorable condition for the females of our country, they are greatly underestimating the power in the tender strength of the feminine heart. Protecting that natural resource would be to their advantage in my opinion.
The trees are lovely to be sure. Women and children are lovelier. We were completely mesmerized with the process of removing the beautiful tree next door. I just wish we were as concerned with the removal of children from this world and women's hearts in the process.