As a native Floridian, two trees have dotted the landscape of my life—the sabal palm and the live oak. Among the green marshes, sandy beaches, and emerald forests of my youth, the palm and the oak can often be seen standing. Side-by-side, one next to the other.
The oak stretches wide, providing blissful shade from summer heat. Its magnificence and beauty often leaves me breathless. The bark scratching skin, stripping knees bare as little arms and legs attempt to climb its branches. Live oaks are majestic. Noticeable. Praiseworthy.
But then. Then the sabal palm. The state tree of Florida. It fails to hold my attention. The paltry shade offers little protection. If you found Florida in the middle of August, you would not seek the palm’s shelter from the orange sky-fire burning your skin. It catches the eye as only a symbol of paradise. Nothing more. A tall, skinny toothpick. I am not a fan.
The winds have changed my mind.
Lately, the winds in life have blown hard. Maybe you know them. Hurricane forces threatening to uproot your existence–driving debris and hail into your days with damaging strength. Some days the winds rage with such ferocity, survival seems a bleak possibility.
But God can speak to us through His trees. When strong winds blow, oaks are uprooted. The palms? They hold fast.
They hold fast for two reasons—their roots and their willingness to bend.
When the hurricanes come, majestic oaks with their shallow roots lift like feathers out of the ground and crash, splintered and fragmented—only a shadow of what they once were. The roots cannot hold tight. The mighty tree falls.
But the sabal palm? It has an extraordinary root system. While the roots stretch wide, they can also sink 15 to 20 feet into the ground. The fibrous tendrils cling tight to the rich earth beneath the sandy surface. Roots driven deep into the life source. Roots refusing to let go.
Paul admonishes us to live our lives in Jesus, firmly “rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith…and overflowing with thankfulness (Colossians 2:7).” The further we drive our roots into the Savior, the stronger we’ll stand.
When our roots spill out and grasp the wood of two cross beams we are tethered. Tethered by an unshakeable force, stronger than any hurricane wind blustering through our lives.
So. When the unrelenting gusts do threaten to uproot us, we are held tight by the splintered cross. Splintered so we remain whole. And then we must bend.
We bend, but we do not break like the rigid oak. Prideful and haughty, the oak refuses to bow, and so it snaps. Branches ripped and destroyed. And the earth thunders under the fall of the immovable majesty.
But the palm? Watch how it bends. The winds come and the sabal palm bows to the ground. Humble. Pliable. Because bending low can save the palm from destruction.
Bending low can save us from being uprooted, splintered, destroyed. With our faces bowed low, we lift up holy palms to the Shelter from our storms. The I-could-never-do-this-alone posture of bending. Realizing the need for the Savior who lifts bent hearts.
Because a life rooted to the splintered cross is a life that also bends low in prayer. Deep roots and praying hearts can weather the storms.
Hurricanes will role across our lives, but the palms will point to the One who can bring us through the rain still standing—holding fast.
I would like to introduce the photography of a dear friend, Cheryl Dewees. Her stunning images of God’s creation can be found on her Etsy site, Point of View Creations, by clicking here.