Earlier today, as I sat on our screened in porch while the baby napped, I watched the wind blow our trees in every direction. A strong storm is supposedly coming later tonight, and the wind seems to be its forerunner.
We have trees of varying sizes in our backyard, from young trees that are slender and frail, to strong, mature trees that seem to be made of iron. Most of these trees are behind our fence line, but one tree is in the middle of our backyard.
This particular tree is of medium height, but of slender build. This tree has an odd, and somewhat irritating habit of dropping little branches onto the ground whenever heavy winds blow through. Occasionally, it will drop a big branch, which one of us will have to drag into the nearby woods to get it out of our yard. Despite the inconveniences, I really enjoy this high maintenance tree.
As I was watching it be blown around by the wind, I noticed that the higher branches were being whipped about so severely that it seemed they would be ripped off of the tree. As a matter of fact, quite a few small branches and twigs were already on the ground, proving the strength of the wind. The further down the tree my gaze went, though, the less movement the tree experienced. The base of the tree was unbothered, even while the top of the tree was buffeted about.
As I was watching about this nature scene play out, I began to see an extended metaphor rise to the surface.
We are all structured like trees, from the deep roots to the small, leafy branches. Our innermost selves (roots) are usually quietly kept, and are not as visible as the superficial parts of our lives (little branches), such as how we look, how much money we make, or what clothes we wear.
Each of us has our own deep, foundational belief system that serves as an anchor to us throughout our lives. For me and my family, we are rooted in the fact that God not only exists, but that He is a sovereign and loving God. No matter what trials of life come our way, God is not surprised, He has not lost control, and He has not forgotten us.
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” — Romans 8:38-39
As we progress further up the tree, we come to the things we have moderate convictions about, like the medium sized tree branches. These are things that experience the turbulence of the storm, but they usually hold firm. Something that I think would fall into this category would be a job, or a house. These are things that hold a lot of weight in a person’s life, but they are not completely impermeable to change or chaos.
When something in this category is lost, it is a big blow. Many people in the world are going through that right now, with losses of jobs, security, and many other things. When these big branches of our lives are lost, it can feel as though you are losing a part of yourself. We must remember, though, these branches are not foundational to us. They are usually a base for the less important things in our lives, like lifestyles, bank accounts, and hobbies.
These small branches are not inherently wrong, or meaningless, but they are fluff. When push comes to shove, we can do without them. The storms of life have a way of weeding out the unnecessary items in our lives, like the small branches that end up on the ground when the wind blows. I know this is happening to a lot of people right now, myself included.
I also believe that God uses the storms to clean up certain parts of our lives. When He sees that we have a few dead branches on our tree that need to be pruned, He allows storms to come our way. By removing the dead branches, God allows us to grow to be more like Him. Once we are unencumbered by distractions, we can see God more clearly.
Now, this is often a tough process to go through, and it’s bad enough when we lose a small branch, much less a medium branch. Even though growth and change are often painful, there is beauty in them, and “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
To circle up the extended metaphor, we must be firmly rooted trees to hold fast through life’s trials, and we must be rooted in something that is worthy of our trust. God is worthy of our trust, and He has proven it time and time again.
When the storms of life come, our foundational convictions are what hold us strong and secure, and they give us hope that there is a peace and calm beyond the struggle.