The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Be what God created you to be

Live divided no more

“Jack pines ... are not lumber trees [and they] won’t win many beauty contests either. But to me this valiant old tree, solitary on its own rocky point, is as beautiful as a living thing can be .... In the calligraphy of its shape against the sky is written strength of character and perseverance, survival of wind, drought, cold, heat, disease .... In its silence it speaks of ... wholeness ... an integrity that comes from being what you are.” Douglas Wood

Northern Lights and Jack PinesEvery summer, I go to the Boundary Waters, a million acres of pristine wilderness along the Minnesota-Ontario border. My first trip, years ago, was a vacation, pure and simple. But as I returned time and again to that elemental world of water, rock, woods and sky, my vacation began to feel more like a pilgrimage to me—an annual trek to holy ground driven by spiritual need. Douglas Wood’s meditation on the jack pine, a tree native to that part of the world, names what I go up north seeking: images of how life looks when it is lived with integrity.

Thomas Merton claimed that “there is in all things … a hidden wholeness.” But back in the human world—where we are less self-revealing than jack pines—Merton’s words can, at times, sound like wishful thinking. Afraid that our inner light will be extinguished or our inner darkness exposed, we hide our true identities from each other. In the process, we become separated from our own souls. We end up living divided lives, so far removed from the truth we hold within that we cannot know the “integrity that comes from being what you are.”

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February issue


Embracing diversity