Often the challenges that life on the road can bring are tempered by the generosity and love we experience from some of the churches we visit around the country. As part of their mission conference last summer, a supporting church in Las Vegas had Christmas in June for the missionaries. Through their generosity and sacrifice our family was recently able to visit Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.
Animal Kingdom theme park is home to more than 1,700 animals from 250 species and sprawls across 500 acres of lush landscape. We arrived when the park opened and went straight to Kilimanjaro Safari in the Africa area. There we rode an open-sided safari vehicle through a wildlife “preserve” and saw many different kinds of animals as they roamed the “savanna,” including lions, black rhino, giraffe, elephants, and hippos just to name a few. It was our favorite exhibit. From there we walked Maharajah Jungle Trek to see the various animals of northern Asia including Sandy’s favorite the tigers. Another highlight for Isaiah was riding the Expedition Everest roller coaster with his mama as Pearl and I watched from below. Since we had a park-hopper pass we were able to spend the remainder of the day at Magic Kingdom. It was one of those days as a family that we will cherish the rest of our lives.
One interesting feature of Animal Kingdom is its iconic centerpiece The Tree of Life. It is a sculpted 145-foot tall, 50-foot wide tree with a green canopy of synthetic umbrella like leaves. There is a swirling tapestry of 325 animals carved into the bark extending down to the gnarled roots and blending into the flora at its base. Brooks trickle through and waterfalls cascade around it creating the desired effect as an homage to nature.
As a student of the Bible I was interested in its title The Tree of Life. The concept of a tree of life can be found in various ancient cultures around the world. Rather than dispel the reality of such a tree ever existing, the number of accounts from so many varied sources actually point to a common history. They differ only because time and local cultural circumstances have embellished and altered the truth as found in the Bible.
Modern spiritualist, divorced from the truth of God’s word, see the Tree of Life as a symbol of the interconnectedness that we as humans share with the rest of the living beings on earth. To them the swirling interconnectedness of the animal sculpted carvings in the Disney Tree reflects this idea of a cosmic unity that binds us all.
Unfortunately the true connection that man and nature all share is the curse from the fall and its ramifications which include alienation from the life of God. The history of man unfolds between this paradise lost and the eventual paradise regained, between man being driven out from the Tree of Life and ultimately having right to it again.
The Tree of Life is mentioned three times in the Garden of Eden but it is lost because of man’s sin (Gen. 2:9; 3:22,24). It is then mentioned three times in the New Jerusalem as restored to its rightful place in the midst of paradise (Rev. 2:7; 22:2,14). The message between Genesis and Revelation is that Jesus Christ restores that which was lost. All that was lost in the fall of man God has restored to us through the person of his Son.
We can experience the Tree of Life today in type. The Tree is mentioned four times in the book of Proverbs and deals with the life of the godly man on earth and the fruit he bears (Prov. 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4). It is the life of God in us imparted to us through Jesus Christ that should bring life to those around us. This type of interconnectedness with our fellow mankind is something all who have tasted of eternal life should desire.
“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” Proverbs 11:30