It has been some time since I’ve worked on an icon. I have come to realize that I’m not a production warehouse and I’ve come to grips with that. My calling is not that of one who writes in a continuous stream. Instead, I’m the type who sees and then is left to meditate for some time on what I’ve seen before picking up the first brush. The last icon of significance that I worked on was this one of our Lord and a terebinth tree.
God revealed this icon to me nearly four years ago when my Dad had a massive stroke. Needless to say, I was very distraught over Daddy’s sickness and often found myself in a place of God’s presence that I hadn’t been in before. It was a place of stillness, deeply withdrawn from the voices and cares of this world. Although I have been a Christian for a long time I had not known of such a place until that time and place in my life.
God walked me to this place and there I found complete rest, enlightenment of the sacred, and peace. Although it was through a painful experience that enabled me to visit this place for the first time, I know now, I can visit this place in God regardless of life’s situations.
The Vision of our Lord and the Terebinth Tree
This icon came to me through a vision. To help alleviate some of the stress of the experience of Daddy’s illness, my family began walking in a local state park. This park has beautiful walking trails. Our favorite trail was one that meandered through the woods and finished with a walk along a medium size creek. Every Saturday we would head off to the park as a family and enjoy a good hour of fresh air and companionship with each other.
One particular Saturday however, no one wanted to go, but me. I needed these walks…. so I found myself driving to the park alone, angry, upset, and afraid because the rest of my family was not coming along. Secretly, I was afraid to hike in the woods without them.
The first half of my hike was spent grumbling against them for not coming with me. I blamed them for my feelings of fear. But as I walked I began to look up at the tree canopies and suddenly I was in the fear of the Lord. My vision began to change from my spacial surroundings to a portal opening. Somehow I was seeing, not the space around me, but the space beyond me. A space of all-encompassing blueish light and of a tree that was unlike any I had ever seen before. The Lord told me the tree that I was seeing was a Terebinth tree.
As soon as I got home I began looking in the Old Testament for this tree. Having taught the Old Testament for nearly eight years in India, I knew the Patriarchs would from time to time have encounters with Yahweh in places with trees.
Abraham had such encounters. In Genesis 12:6-8 Yahweh spoke to Abram while he was in the sacred place near the terebinth of More. In Gen. 21:32-34 Abraham planted a terebinth tree after a conflict between Abraham and those of Philistine territory was resolved. There are many more references throughout the book of Genesis.
Terebinth trees are a part of the Sumac family and are related to the magnolia and pistachio. The terebinth tree can grow to be very large and live for over a thousand years.
So what is so important about the terebinth tree? Scripture associates them with sacred places. The oil from the tree is known to have been used in a healing balm. The Lord shows us a place of sacred meeting, healing and rest under the Tree of Life. The question is are we willing to rest under the blue flickering light as it passes through the canopy of the terebinth tree?
I gave this icon to my Dad, and since then we have witnessed him dedicate his life to the Lord and maintain, through all the ups and downs of such an illness, a constancy in the Lord. To God be the glory.