The legend of the dogwood tree
By A. Ray Lee
There is a legend that states that the dogwood tree once towered above all the trees in the forest. It stood with pride, strong and straight, reaching upward toward heaven. The legend has it that because of its strength and density, its wood was used to make the cross on which Jesus was crucified. As a result, the tree was forever cursed with the loss of its height and strength. But in its repentance, it was allowed annually to announce the resurrection of Jesus with its beautiful blossoms.
Effie, a pragmatist, once accused me of being a romanticist—always able to see that which others might not see in an event or story. So be it. Twenty-five years ago I transplanted a dogwood seedling from the yard of daughter Jenny in Georgia to a favorite spot in our yard. Through the years as it grew and spread its branches, we were blessed each Easter with its snow-white blossoms.
Over time its trunk had been scarred by a carelessly driven lawn mower. A number of its limbs had been broken. Other plants – vines and grasses – had invaded its space. These things, along with age, began to take their toll. This year its death seemed certain with the drought of last fall and the great freeze in early winter.
In spring when other trees and plants put forth fresh leaves and blooms, the old dogwood did not. For all appearances, it had no evidence of life-giving sap left in it. But I hesitated in having grandson Henry, who is now my lawn caretaker, cut it down. Belatedly, and unexpectedly just in time for Easter, it sprang forth overnight with new life and bloomed right on time. It had come through a difficult time and bore the scars which come to all living things, yet it had prevailed. It was as if it were saying, “I may have appeared to be dead but life remains in me.”
I am reminded of the lyrics of Dallas Holm’s powerful song in which he imagines the words Jesus may have spoken for the benefit of all who stood near the cross as he was being crucified. To paraphrase his words: “Go ahead and do your worst to me; crucify me, put me in a tomb, and say I’m dead and gone. But I will rise again. There’s no power on earth can keep me down.”
As we age we too are scarred by difficult and disappointing times when like the old dogwood we wonder if we have any strength of life left within us. We may be dealing with a difficult present and facing an uncertain future with fear and dread. That is when we need the message of Easter to become personal and real to us. Bill and Gloria Gaither captured the promise so beautifully when they wrote the words, “Because he lives I can face tomorrow. Because he lives all fear is gone. Because I know who holds the future and I can face tomorrow just because he lives.”
The Apostle Paul understood the power found in the resurrection when he stated his earnest desire in the words, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection.” (Philippians 3:10) One of the greatest prayers we lift is that we may live by the power of our resurrected Lord. He Lives!