In the life of a tree, at one point it breaks through the soil and shows the first visible evidence of its existence. It would then move on to grow into a massive, gargantuan tree, soaring up into the sky, sturdy and unmovable. But even the oaks, sycamores, and the Redwoods have their beginnings, and these beginnings do not happen when they emerge to the terrestrial surface; they happen long before that, in the depths of the earth.
There in the secrets of the dark underground, the seed lies in silence, dormant at first. Moisture then diffuses in, the chemistry of life kicks in, and then, un-witnessed by any human eye, the seed germinates and becomes a tree.
Talking about faith, Heschel writes:
Men have often tried to give itemized accounts of why they must believe that God exists. Such accounts are like ripe wheat we harvest upon the surface of the earth. Yet it is beyond all reasons, beneath the ground, where a seed turns to be a tree, where the act of faith takes place. Man is Not Alone, p. 87.
The display of faith, whether seemingly great or small, that’s visible to the public eyes all begins in the same mysterious place deep inside the soil of the heart. Somehow, a seed is planted there, dormant at first, then infused with life. It is in this secret place that a Christian is born, and born again.
Men may marvel at the greatness of a tree that’s displayed above ground. That is all what they can marvel at. But the strength of a giant tree lies in the depth of its roots, the part that is unseen. So is with the Christian life. It is from a secret place, no witnesses, no flattery or ridicule, that the nourishment and refreshment come. The mysterious reactions in the heart, in obscurity, always precede the public persona, both in the life story of a Christian and in his daily life.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. Psalm 1:1-3
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8
The question then is, in my secret place where only God can access, am I truly a Christian? Forget the fronts, the displays, and profession, when it comes to the greatest victories that I can gain, the ones in the audience chamber with God, are these my experience?
There are many who have given themselves to Christ, yet who see no opportunity of doing a large work or making great sacrifices in His service. These may find comfort in the thought that it is not necessarily the martyr’s self-surrender which is most acceptable to God; it may not be the missionary who has daily faced danger and death that stands highest in heaven’s records. The Christian who is such in his private life, in the daily surrender of self, in sincerity of purpose and purity of thought, in meekness under provocation, in faith and piety, in fidelity in that which is least, the one who in the home life represents the character of Christ—such a one may in the sight of God be more precious than even the world-renowned missionary or martyr. Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 403.
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.