Recently during a summer storm strong gusts of wind split a very large silver maple. As we cleaned up the mess, I was surprised by the integrity, or lack thereof, of the wood. Although the tree appeared healthy outwardly, many of the limbs had significant internal hollow spots that were vessels for major decay.
After doing some research, I found this is common to the species. Silver maples grow very fast and have nice foliage and thus they have been popular to plant in yards for shade. However, despite these outward advantages, these maples also have several important internal weaknesses. For example, they have shallow roots and their wood is brittle making them highly susceptible to storm damage. As I picked up these massive chunks of wood, two feet in diameter, with healthy outsides and hollow cores, I couldn’t help but think my own life and perhaps the lives of others is or has been like the silver maple when it comes to spiritual matters.
If you are like me, as you made your way into adulthood, your focus was on rapid growth in your professional and personal life. As my life progressed, my career developed considerable foliage. Sure some small branches died or broke off here and there but for the most part it was up, up and away. The same has been true in my personal life. (Yet here I’ll admit even though there has been growth, there also has been major branches broken along the way.) At any given point in my life, if you were standing in assessment, you might easily come to the conclusion that my tree was healthy and growing.
Of course all is usually well in our lives until a severe storm strikes. When that occurs we are too often dumbstruck with the level of destruction. Our tree splits in half and this time the limbs that come down are so big that the earth around us is also damaged. How does this happen? We were so strong and healthy.
Often times, we can trace the problems back to our spiritual life. When young we become so focused on growing our personal and professional lives that we don’t dedicate enough time and energy to developing our spiritual roots. For me, regrettably, my spiritual life while present wasn’t the centerpiece of my growth strategy. Like the silver maple, all my growth was in the outwardly foliage at the expense of the roots.
The strength of a tree, however, is not in the limbs. Yes, they are beautiful, impressive even and fun to climb. Branches provide cool shade from the summer heat and a good place for a swing, but rapid growth in our silver maple lives comes at the expense of our spiritual roots.
If we spend more time and energy developing strong spiritual roots, we greatly increase the integrity of our wood. We are healthier on the inside and down deep. Most importantly, we are better prepared to weather the major storms!