Nature & Grace

Tonight, I may have skipped Life Group to see a movie.

It sounds terrible, yes, but I had good reason: the family was going to see The Tree of Life.

While there is much to be said about this film, in my mind, some of the most poignant portions of the movie appeared early.

Amid visuals of the creation of the world and the dramatic interplay among a family, whispers from the family members knit the film’s themes together.

Beginning with text from Job 38, the films asks, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.”


Terrence Malick’s film is about not only creation, but Grace and Nature as well.

The mother, Mrs. O’Brian, says, “The nuns taught us there were two ways to life – the way of Nature and the way of Grace.”

Adopting the way of Nature leads to a selfish life, which makes demands on those around you. The one who lives by Nature will continually “find reasons to be unhappy when life is shining all around it.”

The way of Grace, though – well, Grace is another thing. Despite Nature’s opposition, Grace forgives. Grace refuses to respond to insults.


Grace loves. And the one who walks in Grace will love, too.

Mrs. O’Brian reminds us that, “No one who loves the way of Grace ever comes to a bad end.” After as pause,  she says, “I will be true to you, whatever comes.”

While Mr. O’Brian struggled under the burden of Nature, which he in turn placed on his eldest son Jack, Mrs. O’Brian and R.L. find joy in the light of Grace.


Later in the film, a voice, which I assume to be Jack, asks, “Lord, why? And where were you?” Grappling with his brother’s premature death, Jack’s question leads back to the passage from Job. God asks Job, “Where were you?,” begging him to consider that while he was not present when the earth was created, God was.

If God can create the wonders that He did in heaven and on earth, is He not still involved in our lives, too? Through our past, present, and future, He is there.

And despite the brokenness of this world, it is the Grace of God that will sustain us, through our sorrow, hurt, pain and despair.


While the film certainly had other merits, including a stunning screenplay, The Tree of Life reminded me of this:

Walk in Love. Walk in Grace.



4 Responses to “Nature & Grace”
  1. Lisa says:

    Amen to all you said…and to Mrs. O’Brian’s wisdom!

  2. Thanks for writing this, Janie. To me, these are the most vital things to come away with after sitting in the dark with the family. The movie had some truth and beauty, to be sure, but the pacing seemed languid to me. Also, what was with those dinosaurs? I guess a movie that spans the entire history of the earth needs to be over two hours long!

  3. Carrie D. says:

    Indeed, God’s grace will sustain us even through the dark. Thank you for sharing this!

  4. Levi Sikes says:

    This is an excellent take-away from a film that, upon further reflection, shines more and more brightly. The dinosaurs–yes, even they!–had their place in the nature/grace dialogue, but I have to say that it was the weakest point of the film.

    Even still, hold fast to the good: “I will be true to you, whatever comes.”

    Where can we see grace–God’s grace, even–making good on these words more than in the person of Jesus Christ?

    “The Tree of Life” even branches into that wondrous fact.

    Maybe we can have a round two during a family movie night? What do you say, Dad?

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