We had quite a storm blow though our Chicago suburb about a week ago. After days of intense heat and no rain the thought of a good down pour initially sounded nice. Little did we know just how much of a punch the storm would carry as winds of 80 plus mph were recorded during the peak of this storm. At the height of the storm I watched through my balcony window as the sheets of horizontal rain beat down on our two large trees on the front lawn. Suddenly with little warning our 20 plus foot Bradford Pear tree snapped like a toothpick at the base of the trunk. My family and I could not believe that our beautiful ten year old ornamental tree was cut down in a split second.
The following morning my husband and son-in-law cut the fallen tree into manageable pieces in preparation to have it hauled off. I know it is just a tree but I have to admit that it made me sad to think that the shade and beauty it provided for us over the years was now gone. We plan to replant another tree to replace this one but we have already decided it will not be another Bradford.
Let me explain why. The morning after the storm we took a drive around our subdivision to see if there was other damage from the storm. WOW— what a surprise we had. There were indeed a number of trees that had been knocked over or had their branches split off. We saw toppled signs, broken fences and even two trampolines that somehow ended up in people’s front lawns. One was pretty well twisted up and destroyed. But let me get back to the trees because I want to make a point here. Probably eighty percent of the trees that were down were Bradford Pears! The oaks, maples and ash trees seemed undaunted by the previous night’s destructive winds.
This got me to thinking so I did a little research on these beautiful ornamentals. These trees are originally native to Korea and China but they have been gracing homes in the US for many years now. The Bradford is a fast growing pyramidal shaped tree hence the reason for its popularity. In the spring it provides lovely (though not fragrant) white flower blossoms before the leaves make their appearance and in the fall this tree puts on an amazing show of vibrant orange, red and maroon colors which are a site to behold. Because of their large dense branches we had many a feathered friend pick our tree over the years to set up a home and raise its young. Yes to the untrained tree lover’s eye the Bradford would seem an excellent choice for a tree.
Unfortunately this tree may have more things working against it than for it in the long run. Initially a young Bradford will give the appearance that all is well as it takes off reaching great heights in a short period of time. What many people do not realize is that these seemingly strong trees are very prone to splitting off their branches. In addition to this the Bradford has a very shallow root system. Considering the width and heavy weight of the tree’s branches, the roots by comparison are much smaller, shallow and have little depth or strength. The taller the tree the more stress is put on the lower and larger joints of the tree, which invariably causes splitting. In addition this tree is known for the sucker roots it shoots off into a yard. If left unattended these suckers will destroy a lawn with the spreading roots. So where am I going with this? Where is the nugget in this story??? Allow me to make these points.
1) Storms in life are inevitable. Someone will lose a job. A marriage will crumble. A son or a daughter will make some bad choices that will impact their life. How will you stand up to those torrential rains and high velocity winds that will try to topple your faith and blow away your hope? If your root system in God is deep and strong, not weak and shallow then you will be able to withstand that storm even when you have little or no warning of its approach or its intensity. In order to have a solid root system we need to make sure we are being fed spiritually BEFORE the storm hits. John 15 gives a beautiful illustration of what it means to be rooted in the vine in order to grow in a productive manner. I ask you now—what are you feeding on? Will it sustain you and keep you from falling when a storm comes blowing into your life?
2) Where is the fruit? I find it interesting that a tree as beautiful and fast growing as the Bradford Pear has lots of limbs, pretty blossoms and gorgeous leaves but it never bears…FRUIT!! Huh??? When I examine my life I want to be sure it isn’t filled with a lot of fruitless branches no matter how pretty they may seem. If I am not bearing the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 then how can I be a blessing to those around me? In order to bear this fruit we must be like the tree in Psalm 1:3 which is planted by rivers of water which bring forth fruit in season and whose leaves will not wither. Today I encourage you to ask yourself where you have planted yourself and take a good look at the fruit you are producing.
3) What are you RE-producing? Like the Bradford that sends off useless or even harmful suckers, I must ask myself what kind of impact am I making on those who are looking up to me for guidance or wisdom or maybe nothing more an ounce of hope to keep going. Am I doing all I can to disciple others to lead godly lives? Am I using my God given gifts to make a difference for the Kingdom of God? This is a loaded question and one that each of us will have to answer as a child of God. The final chapter in Matthew concludes with a mandate from Christ himself telling us that we are to go and make disciples. I hear people all the time say that they are not gifted to share the Gospel of Salvation. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you are a child of God saved by grace then you have a testimony. You have a story. Tell your story. Tell others what God did for you and how he changed your life. That my friend is the greatest story of the Gospel you can ever share!
So now dear ones I leave you with this closing thought. Look around. Are the skies blue and clear today or do you see storm clouds forming in your life? Storms will always be a part of life and perhaps even more so in the uncertain times we live in today. You can’t stop them but you can prepare for them. My advice to you is to do a “root check” right now. If those roots appear somewhat shallow it is not too late to force them to go deeper into solid ground. Don’t let the “top heaviness” of life’s problems cause things to snap or topple over when the storm comes. When the storm comes don’t count on the branches to keep you standing…your roots will make the difference!
From my heart to yours,