The last time that I was at my parents' house in Connecticut, I took this picture. It was an incredibly nostalgic weekend for me in November 2010 as it was my dad's last Sunday at the church where he had served for over 36 years. It was one of those important moments in life where you feel as if things are going really fast and really slow at the same time. I was trying to project towards the future, wondering what I might look back and wish that I could have captured and remembered. As I walked around the yard for one of the last times, I was continually drawn to this tree.
I remember the day that the tree was planted. Someone had brought us a sapling, small and fragile, looking as if it could barely survive. I think that at the time, I looked at it and thought to myself, how on earth will this thing survive? I had seen it at its' smallest and most fragile point. I think that may have been what struck me the most as I stood before this tree. It was a far cry from the sapling that had been planted so many years before. Here it was, reaching to the sky, hundreds of times bigger than it had been when it was first planted in the soil there in the yard. It no longer resembled the weak and little sapling, now it was tall and mighty, reaching to the heavens, providing shade to all who would come under it, a picture of beauty to all who looked upon it.
In some ways, I feel like the sapling, fragile, small, helpless, needing someone or something to come along and protect me. I feel as if a good storm could blow me over or drown me out. In other ways, I feel like the large pine tree, reaching to the heavens, mightier than I was before. The dichotomy of both pictures stands to me as a strong reminder that tension is not bad and that it is possible to be both at the same time, moment by moment, day by day. I am hardly the person that I was twenty plus years ago when that sapling was put in the ground. In fact, I am hardly the person that I was just eight months ago.
Friday will mark out for me and my family a month since my mom met Jesus face to face. In many ways, the same feelings that I experienced that weekend in November, feeling as if it was just yesterday and yet years ago all at the same time, are the feelings that I have experienced since I said 'goodbye' to Mom. A day does not pass without me thinking about her. I continue to look at pictures to see her face. I reach for my phone to share some piece of my day and my life with her. I picture her laugh, her smile, and her embrace.
As mighty as this tree is, in the midst of a storm, it can still be fragile again. As much as any of us might grow, we still remain in the midst of a creation that has been turned upside down by sin. But trees are resilient, cut them and they will continue to grow. Winds and rain may shake and sway them, but they continue to stand. The strongest ones stand because their root structure is deep. The deeper the roots, the stronger the tree. I am finding out just how deep my roots go.
My roots are not grounded in myself, I am nothing. Instead, my roots are fed and grounded in the One who formed me in my mother's womb, the One who knit together all of creation, who loved us enough to allow us to be free, free enough to choose sin, and who still made a way for restoration. I am who I am, not because of what I have done, but because of who I am grounded in. I have lost branches, been hit with storms, swayed and bent with the weight of the wind, and yet I still stand. My roots go deep and I will remain. I will echo the words of Habakkuk and say, "The Sovereign Lord is my strength." I am a tree who still stands, not in my strength, but in the strength of my Lord. How deep are your roots and what is it that you are rooted?