While visiting with a neighbor, I was asked: “Do you know anything about trees?” Before I could reply in the negative, he pointed to a tree that was losing its bark. I suggested that he call an arborist or someone skilled in dendrochronology.
An arborist is someone who is trained to plant and cultivate trees, and dendrochronology studies tree rings to determine the dates and chronological order of past events. By studying the rings of a tree, a person can identify the years that were dry spells and distinguish them from the wet seasons.
It’s not the rings of a person’s life that reveals his wet and dry seasons, but it’s the scars and the wrinkles. Naomi is a woman who experienced both the wet and dry seasons.
As a young woman, she left Bethlehem with her husband and two sons. Even though Moab was off-limits to Jews, she and her family settled there. While living in the forbidden land of Moab, Naomi lost her husband, both sons, her wealth, and her beauty.
The dry years in Moab left their marks on Naomi. By the time she returned to her homeland, her youthful skin had become wrinkled and she had been scarred by spiritual neglect. When her old friends and neighbors saw her they asked: “Is this Naomi?”
She replied: “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara: for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty.”
Because her life experiences had changed her, Naomi didn’t believe she was worthy of a name that means “pleasant, winsome, or agreeable.” She believed the name Mara or “bitter” was more appropriate.
Naomi and her husband had made the same mistake that Esau made many years earlier. Due to a lack of spiritual insight, he had traded his birthright to satisfy his short-term appetite:
“Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears.”
What do the rings of your life say about you? When you look into the mirror of God’s Word, what do you see? Do you see the weeds of discontent or do you see the fruit of love, joy, and cheerfulness?