In early September, my husband and I visited the petrified forest of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. This is what we had to walk through to get to the forest:
Not exactly what you would call a forest, now is it? More like rolling plains, wouldn’t you say? Visitors are warned to use sun protection and carry plenty of water, because nature provides neither on this hike. The wide-open spaces are breathtaking, though! You can see for miles in any direction. And of course I had to capture a flower along the way . . .
After hiking about 1.5 miles (2.4 km), you begin to see rather large tree stumps here and there. Some still standing and some fallen over, but there’s no question that trees once covered this area. The forest was populated with a relative of the modern Sequoia, and some of the stumps measure up to 12 feet (3.6 m) across.
According to the North Dakota Geological Survey, the forest floor was at one point flooded, and the bases of the trees were buried. What remained above the surface rotted away.
These pictures show what surrounds the stumps: bentonite clay.
Bentonite clay is what you get when volcanic ash ages. It has a ton of uses because of its properties (look it up!), but as a supporting sediment, it doesn’t hold up well to water erosion. Over the years the clay has washed away, leaving these trees standing guard.
So this forest was flooded, as well as covered in volcanic ash. But these trees are no longer made of wood. Since they were suddenly protected from contact with the air, they were preserved from rot and decay. As time passed, water seeped through the wood carrying minerals, which crystalized within the structure of the wood itself. Eventually no plant material remained, only hard minerals that have taken on the shape of their mold.
The color variations are created from trace amounts of impurities. Iron shows up as yellow, brown, or red, carbon and manganese provide black and purple shades.
So now for the big question: Are You Petrified?
Nowadays when we hear the term “petrified,” we think of being frozen in fear. That’s not where I’m going today, though!
This petrified wood is much stronger than that of a living tree because it’s now made of stone. It can withstand forces that would have easily taken down the tree before it was buried and petrified.
You and I can become strong through a similar process.
When we give our lives to Christ, the Living Water and the Rock of our Salvation, the process begins!
“So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).
“For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead” (Colossians 2:12 NLT).
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
“May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God” (Philippians 1:11).
The longer we live in submission to our Lord and Savior, the more our character begins to look like his. We still live in this earthly body, but who we are on the inside changes day by day.
As we learn to put our trust in him for our everything, we become stronger against the things of this world that try to tempt or terrify us. The ground around us may fall away, but we will stand firm!
“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2).
So I ask again, my friend, are you petrified? Are you allowing Christ to do his perfect work in you, making you strong and immovable? What are some ways you have changed recently, becoming stronger in the faith?
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.