A few weeks ago, as I was out on a walk in some woods by my house, I came across a very large tree which had toppled over. There had been a storm the night before with high winds. While there were other trees with snapped branches, I was intrigued why this particular tree had not weathered the storm. The tree had been completely uprooted and was lying horizontally. When I walked to the base of tree, I could quickly see the reason. Despite the height and circumference, the root system, now visible, was quite shallow.
Seeing this tree, I was reminded of something I read about a mountain in New Hampshire called North Sugarloaf Mountain. With its stunning vistas, this area is a frequented site for hikers. The trails are lined with beautiful trees. However, when a hiker reaches the top of the mountain, they will notice there are fewer trees.
Although the US Forest Department has tried for years to plant more trees and foliage on the top of North Sugarloaf Mountain, it has been a failed effort. On top of the mountain, trees cannot put down deep roots because the soil is so rocky. In fact, it has been suggested that there might even be essentially a granite slab under the soil.
Because almost every tree that is planted cannot put down deep roots, the tree's roots will inevitably spread out just under the surface. A tree without a deep root system will not be able to withstand the storms. Because of its lack of stability, high winds will uproot it easily, toppling the tree and exposing the underside of its very shallow root system.
For me, this is a beautiful metaphor for our spiritual lives. In moments of stress, uncertainty, and upheaval, we need to draw from the roots of faith we have put down. Our resiliency, the ability not to be uprooted by the unexpected storms of life, largely depends on the systems of stability we have nurtured. Too often, we do not think about our "root system" until we are in the midst of the storms. Yet, there are ways we can put down deeper roots of resilience to carry us during these times.
As people of faith, one of the most essential ways we can build our resiliency is prayer. One of my favorite reminders of the importance of taking time to pray is a quote attributed to the great reformer, Martin Luther. "I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer." Prayer not only quiets down our minds and spirits, it also connects us with the core of our being, our Creator. Prayer reminds us we are not alone. It also reminds us we are not in charge of the universe. God is. God has a plan and purpose we might not yet see. Prayer is trusting in God's purposes for our lives and all of humanity.
Being connected to others
We are created by God to be in relationship. We need other people to ground us and support us. In this particular moment of our collective history, yes, it is more difficult to be connected to one another, but it is not impossible. Now, more than ever, we need one another. We must continue to invest in our relationships, our connections, and being a part of the communities of faith that nurture and enrich our lives.
Being flexible and realistic
So much has changed and continues to change each day for us. Yet, an important skill to ensure these changes will not topple us over is working to be flexible and realistic. Often this means letting go of what we think "should be" and accepting "what is." It is being able to bend and not break, trusting we are in God's care.
Taking care of yourself
In times of stress, it is essential to go back to the basics. This means caring for the body, mind, and spirit God gave us. Good habits help root us deeper in good physical, emotional, and spiritual shape. Simple things like getting sleep, drinking water, eating healthy food, and moving our bodies can go a long way in building up the stamina and resiliency to face whatever challenges may come.
Being able to see the big picture
When we focus on what is right in front of us, we often miss the big picture. Sometimes a change in perspective is all that is needed to change our thinking, our feelings, and our actions. It is important to remind ourselves that whatever we are facing, this too shall pass. God never abandons us or deserts us. In the hardest of times, God carries us and is working to ensure our future.
In these days of stress, strain, upheaval, and uncertainty, may you continue to put down deep roots of faith. These roots will enable you to remain upright and planted in the plans and purposes God has for you and your future.
Blessings, Rev. Shana Johnson, ISC Conference Minister