Last spring, our landlord brought around a small tree and planted it in our yard. He put tall metal stakes on either side and wove a rope around the trunk of the tree and through the stakes, lending the new tree stability it would need as its roots took hold in the ground. This spring, he came around again and removed the stakes, no longer needed as the tree had a year to mature.
A few months ago, a high wind came up and my two sons ran outside. They reached out and held on to the tree, which was bending back and forth in the gusts. They stood there for several minutes, trying to help the tree stand upright, but then it was time for us to leave home.
“But the tree will blow over,” they told me, worried that if they let go, the tree wouldn’t survive the rest of the storm.
I explained to them that the wind was actually good for the tree. For a year, it had been held up by the stakes. It saw wind, but wasn’t affected by it, as the brunt was taken by the supports on either side. But now that the tree was a whole year old, it was time for it to learn to stand on its own. The more the wind blew, the more the tree would learn an important lesson—it should send roots deep into the ground in order to stay strong. If the metal stakes were never removed, the tree would never have a reason to learn that lesson, and it wouldn’t live as long or as productively with a shallow root system.
Isn’t it amazing how life provides teaching moments at every corner? As I explained this scientific principle to my sons, I realized how very like our own journeys here on earth is the journey of a tree. We arrive as tiny babies, placed into the care of two supports, our mother and father. They do their best to keep us upright and protected as we send our first tentative little roots into the soil, and then the day comes when they must step back and allow us to experience the buffetings that will come our way. Because they supported us while we were small, we have learned what we must in order to stay upright, but then comes the true test. Will we dig down deep and develop our own roots of testimony, or will we choose to turn away from our parents’ righteous teachings and wither and die, spiritually?
I saw this analogy from two angles—that of the mother, anxious to teach her children the principles of the gospel they will need to start those tendrils down into the earth, and that of the child, seeking to grow and learn myself. Even though I’m an adult now, with children of my own, in my Heavenly Father’s eyes I’m still a child with much to learn. Every day, I try to plant more ideas, seeds of faith, in my children’s hearts, but every day, I also face my own challenge, that of relying on my faith and the guidance of the Holy Ghost to direct me, rather than allowing the winds and the buffetings of the world to sway me too far to the side, from where I might not be able to return to my former tall, upright shape.
As an addendum to the story of the tree, last month we experienced a windstorm stronger than those we’d previously had, and the tree did break. The children were devastated. They ran outside, picked up the branches, and worried that the tree would die. But then an amazing thing happened. The trunk began to send forth new shoots, which formed leaves. We can see a bright future for this tree. It was broken in half, it was pummeled, it was literally torn limb from limb, and yet it was not defeated. The depth of its roots gave it the strength to keep fighting.
The tree, leafing out and looking full of promise.
I’m very grateful for the roots I have, but I’m also grateful for the winds. Without them, I would never grow stronger, and I might be content to hang out in the rocky soil, not seeking the rich, fertile ground beneath. As we hang in there and seek strength through our trials, that’s when we learn the true measure of the Lord’s tender mercies over us. He is the Master Gardener, the Lord of the Vineyard, and He does know what each of His trees needs to thrive.
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