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Lessons from the Bristlecone Pine

Bristlecone pines are the oldest living things on our planet, with approximately eighteen living examples that are over 4,000 years old. The oldest of these were germinating as the Egyptian pyramids were being built. During ancient Israel’s heyday under King David, they were already 1,500 years old--and they are still growing today.

Surprisingly, this species lives under the harshest conditions imaginable. They are located at an altitude of more than 9,000 feet above sea level on the east side of the Sierra Nevada in the White Hills of California, one of the driest regions on earth. They grow in a most adverse climate, with hardly any rain, facing strong, extremely cold winds. The oldest have an annual growth of just a few tenths of a millimeter and reach only about sixty feet tall. However, they continue to grow and produce seeds from which seedlings spring up, their quiet strength preparing them for thousands of years to come.

The oldest living bristlecone pine, named Methuselah, is 4,850 years old. Its exact location is kept secret by the US Forest Service due to the danger of vandalism. These life giants continue to grow even into the fifth millennium of their lives. It is not difficult to hear what these trees have to say to us: that which has ceased to grow is headed inevitably toward decay and will soon die.

Likewise, as long a person is alive inside, they will continue to grow, even through adversities, crises, and weakness (2 Cor. 4:16). The person who knows nothing of inward renewal will eventually weaken and collapse under destructive thoughts or troublesome winds. We do not choose the soil and location of our life’s climate, and we all experience tremendous growing pain throughout our lives. Those who, like the bristlecone pine, hold out through wind, drought, and adversity and keep up their inner growth are worthy of the same wonder and honor due to these life giants.

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