You Are a Tree

And Other Metaphors to Nourish Life, Thought, and Prayer

Cover Art

Where to Purchase


"That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither--whatever they do prospers."--Psalm 1:3

Sometimes we describe ourselves as trees. When we're thriving, we speak of being rooted and fruitful, in a good season. When we struggle, we might describe ourselves as withering, cut off from friendship and the world. These ways of describing ourselves matter because they shape the ways we live.

But in a world dominated by efficiency, we have begun to use more unforgiving metaphors. We speak of ourselves as computers: we process things, we recharge. In doing so, we come to expect of ourselves an exhausting, relentless productivity.

You Are a Tree examines how the metaphorical descriptions we use in everyday life shape the way we think, pray, and live. Weaving together meditations on our common human experiences, poetry, Scripture, and the Christian tradition, Joy Marie Clarkson explores how metaphors help us understand things like wisdom, security, love, change, and sadness.

This book invites you to pay attention--to your experiences, and to the words you use to describe them. That attention reveals a richly layered and meaningful world, a refreshing perspective that nurtures wonder, gratitude, and hope.

"Extraordinarily creative and beautifully written, You Are a Tree is a soul-stirring companion to life in God's world that will enrich the spirit of all who read it."--DAVID ZAHL, author of Low Anthropology


"I'd use a metaphor to describe this book's specialness (a treasure! a deep well!), but that wouldn't do it justice. Extraordinarily creative and beautifully written, You Are a Tree is a soul-stirring companion to life in God's world that will enrich the spirit of all who read it. Highly recommended!"

David Zahl, director of Mockingbird Ministries and author of Low Anthropology

"This delicious, deeply rooted sequence of meditations on some of the key metaphors in Scripture is a delight, at once refreshing and astringent. Joy Marie Clarkson takes familiar--sometimes overfamiliar--analogies from Scripture and poetry and helps us see and feel them as fresh, new, and thought-provoking."

Revd Dr Malcolm Guite

"As a writer and teacher of literature and composition, I love words. Joy's collection of essays here reads ultimately as a love letter to words and how God speaks His love for us through them. For that, I'm so glad Joy has shared her charming way with words with all of us."

Tsh Oxenreider, author of Bitter & Sweet, Shadow & Light, and At Home in the World

"Joy Marie Clarkson's exploration of the way metaphors shape our imagination will make you fall in love with the beauty of language and be reminded of the marvelous mystery of life. Reading this book will make you more attentive to the glorious, strange experience of being made in the image of God."

Haley Stewart, author of Jane Austen's Genius Guide to Life and editor for Word on Fire Spark

"In You Are a Tree, Joy Marie Clarkson combines the biblical motif of metaphor with insightful artistic allusions as she leads us into a rich conversation about the soul's relationship with God. And she does so with the keen intellect of a scholar and the winsomeness of a skilled communicator."

Brian Zahnd, author of The Wood Between the Worlds

"Gentle, wise, and thought-provoking, this lovely meditation on metaphor will help you think (and pray) more."

Elizabeth Oldfield, host of The Sacred podcast

The Author

  1. Joy Marie Clarkson

    Joy Marie Clarkson

    Joy Marie Clarkson ( is the author of Aggressively Happy and host of the Speaking with Joy podcast. She is a research associate in theology and literature at King's College London and the books editor for Plough Quarterly....

    Continue reading about Joy Marie Clarkson