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  • Michael Gallaugher

The Sycamore


You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12

I love looking at trees. Although it isn’t a typical image of worship, I love the idea of a tree flourishing in its environment. A tree is planted in the ground which feeds it and gives it nutrients, but the sun and air around it also contribute to its well-being. A tree shows growth in growing leaves, flowers and fruit or nuts as applicable. In a similar kind of way, this represents us in worship; we can't respond without first experiencing God’s revelation. We need to be planted in Him and know Him first, before we can respond in worship and also flourish through growth and bearing our own fruit.


My favorite trees are the American Sycamore which are numerous around Central Ohio.

Their tall, winding, spindly branches stretch and reach for the sky. Their bark is so unique, flaking off in irregular masses leaving the surface a mottled camouflage pattern. The bark of all trees has to yield to a growing trunk by stretching, splitting, or infilling; the sycamore shows the process more openly than many other trees. The rigid texture of the bark tissue lacks the elasticity of the bark of some other trees, so it is incapable of stretching to accommodate the growth of the wood underneath, so the tree sloughs it off into large paper-like sheets. Once the outer bark completely strips off there is a pure white inner bark underneath. Often times their bark looks like a camouflage mix of new and old "skin" in a way.


The trees are mesmerizing and beautiful, and they remind me of us humans. Just as the Sycamore tree's bark changes so too was my journey represented, as well as our collective journey as followers of Jesus. Our scars make us unique, but there is a beauty in the blemishes. You can see everything these trees have gone through and yet are still standing. The destination is the journey. I hope too that like these trees, we can have grace on ourselves to realize we are works in progress. Our past doesn’t define us, our blemishes are part of the continual story of grace. I also love how the trees reach for the sky; it similarly reminds me of worship stretching, reaching toward the life-giving light we so desperately need.


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