Waving at the Sky


I never was much of a tree-climber when I was growing up. We live in “the land of the long-leaf pine” and if you’ve ever seen a long-leaf pine, they’re not really climber-friendly trees. Mostly of them have tall, slender bodies with arms high and stretched higher. With my short arms and legs I couldn’t even reach the first branch and so usually, I would settle for lying on my back in the grass and staring up.

Have you ever thought about what you see when you look up? When you’re lying flat on your back you see a lot of treetops and a lot of sky. When I was about six or seven years old, I had followed my brother down the street to where he was playing basketball with a bunch of older boys. Of course they weren’t going to let me play with them. So, I found a spot of clean grass and commenced my sky-watching. After several minutes, I made a profound discovery and jumped up to tell the boys.

“Hey guys! If you look at the sky long enough, you can see the earth turning!” They laughed at me, shook their heads, and kept playing.  I put my hands on my hips as though to punctuate my point. “No, really guys! C’mon and look!”

The oldest of the guys paused in his basket-shooting to glance at me. “That’s not the earth turning. That’s the clouds moving. They do that.” He turned and sank a jump shot as I walked away, defeated.

A few years later, I finally found a tree that I could climb (the one pictured above). It stands behind the garage at my Grandmama’s house. When I was about 11 years old, my younger cousins Jessica and Rachel decided that we should try to climb it. Jessica—tall and athletic—went first. Then, digging the toes of my Reeboks into the bark, clawed my way up into the arms of the tree. Rachel scrambled up behind us and we climbed higher and higher until we were looking out at the Atlantic Ocean on the other side of the house.

Even today, I remember that triumphant feeling of being above everything. Separate from it. Looking down on it with a new perspective. Not that I was superior, but that I had conquered something (my fear of heights, maybe?) and achieved something that I had never thought I could.

Jessica and I climbed that tree for years and each time, I relived my former victory. Even after I graduated high school we climbed it. But then, four years after I graduated, Jessica graduated and the tree was left behind permanently.

Several years ago, I went to the mountains of NC on a retreat with my college’s chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. At the time, I was privately battling severe depression. Because I was new to the group and didn’t know anyone very well, it was easy to hide my depression. They simply thought that “the new girl” was quiet. (If they’d really known me, they’d have known better!)

After the Saturday morning session, I borrowed a sweater from the one person in the group I knew, and took off walking on the side of the mountain. Just to walk. And think. And have a few minutes alone that I could let my guard down.

When you’re walking in mountainous terrain, it’s a pretty good idea to watch where you’re going. So, I had my attention on my feet. But after a while, I suddenly felt a strong urge to stop walking and look up. When I looked up, I was staring straight up the trunk of a huge, naked tree. It was January and all of its leaves were gone, leaving its white arms bare and reaching for the sky.

Looking at the tree I was struck by an overwhelming feeling of jealousy. Oh, to be so naked and unashamed in front of God and man! I’m not talking about exhibitionism. I’m talking about being yourself and being able to worship God freely by just doing what you’re made to do.

John 15 talks at length about Jesus being the vine and we being the branches. I love that scripture! In this season of my life when I feel like I’m being pruned (and probably am being pruned if you want the honest truth), I am so comforted by the thought of being a branch. As a branch, the vine hangs on to me while I simply stretch my naked arms to the sky and embrace all that God is.

About Sarah Salter


  1. I love this, Sarah. That is a great verse and what an amazing picture to envision…arms stretched to the sky!!

  2. Okay first, TWSS. You cheeky little monkey.

    I’ve never climbed a tree. Nope, not once. Not a whole lot of trees around to even consider it when I was a kid. ‘Course now I’d be scared to death to even try. What ever happened to being fearless?

  3. Great post, Sarah. It’s hard being pruned isn’t it? Not to mention being vulnerable. We all have to remember the big picture. This life is not the end. We are preparing for an even bigger, more amazing future.

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Bridget, most days, this is my favorite passage of scripture. I heard a pastor once preach that we as Christians only have one job: to stay connected to the vine. Or in other words, “just hang out and blow in the breeze.” LOL! If only it were really that easy! But it’s definitely a great goal.

  5. Sarah Salter says:

    Wendy, I’d be scared to death to try right now, too! But I’m glad that God gave me that ONE tree to climb. Maybe God’s got a different kind of tree for you to climb… A ferris wheel or a mountain perhaps?

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Thanks, Ginny! That’s a great word of encouragement! Being pruned stinks. But at the same time, there’s a part of me that always remembers that it’s worth it in the end. Bless you, girl!

  7. “I’m talking about being yourself and being able to worship God freely by just doing what you’re made to do.”

    Beautiful. And you’re doing freely what you were made to do climbing to the top of your fear and sharing the view from here to the ocean. Thanks. Keep climbing.

  8. I’ve been down those mountain trails and know exactly what you mean. Nice analogy. And what so many people don’t realize, we’re all naked before God. Those leaves are just superficial coverings.

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