Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Great Trees of the Forest~And coming up short of greatness

Here in the National forests of southern Indiana, some of our younger, weaker trees are sagging under the summer sun. Rains have been few, and plants in under-watered gardens bow low. Shrubs all but pant aloud, seeking pity with their dying leaves. The grass snaps under foot as I cross the lawn. The trails I hike are dust. Rushing streams from earlier in the summer are nothing but gravel and silt. Talcum-fine powder cascades down the rear window of our car. Think "desert" in a Midwestern forest.

And yet the great trees of the forest sway green in the hot breeze. Their branches remain strong and supple, and their leaves vital and alive. What is their source of strength--of endurance?

Yesterday morning, five degrees before the thermometer topped one hundred, I parked my Jeep and stepped into the forest for a five mile hike. I had plenty of water. The tall oaks, sycamores, beech, maples and ash cooled the air.  Their canopy offered cover from the sun's anger. I heard the occasional unsuspecting animals move for protection--their motion less a wintertime skitter, and more a forced march. Yet, beneath the protection of the great trees of the forest, life lumbered and gasped along, as did I.

I paused long enough to step into a stream bed. Just a few short months ago, water had gushed its way through this valley--pushing gravel and forest debris into great piles. Not now. All of life seems to have bent, moaned or broken midst this arid season--except for the giants of the forest. Even next to the empty stream, the sycamores and beech trees stand firm.

Ever wanted to be a spiritual giant?

We all experience dry times in our lives. Our sources for spiritual renewal seem drained. They no longer provide. What worked last month, is coming up empty today. We are denied living water by life's bustle, griefs or fury. And soon, in the blazing place we call today, we bend to worry, doubt and despair.

I am no great oak. My branches sag too often, and my leaves chatter their browning complaints. It is agonizing to find one's self so often coming up short of greatness.

Yet, we must keep on seeking sources that remain; and longing to push roots deeply enough into rocky soil to find Life--no matter the surface condition. That is, if we ever want to be a covering for those who depend on us.

Perhaps spiritual giants--like great forest trees--become so in order to shelter those of us who are weak? Perhaps personal survival is the last thing on their minds? Perhaps it's easier to breath up there where the living and giving are being done?