I wouldn’t consider myself a tree hugger. But I have hugged a palm tree. Actually a few. I’m sure I’m not the only one. It’s just a tourist thing, right? Obviously, when I have a palm tree in my own front yard, I won’t be hugging it all the time. Actually…no promises.
Last week we talked about how a unique qaulity of palm trees is that they are resilient. They can weather the storm because the anchor beneath the surface holds them when the winds are fierce. But not all storms are sent to break us. Some storms are sent to stretch us, to bend us. And this leads me to the next quality of a palm tree that we could stand to embrace.
Palm trees signify FLEXIBILITY.
Sometimes we become to rigid. We don’t go with the flow, lean with the winds of the Holy Spirit’s direction. We become rigid with rules, self-imposed expectations, and routine. And we may think that this is just becoming a product of our surroundings. But, in reality, it’s whats happening at your core.
An oak tree, at it’s core (the trunk) is made up of systematic bundles of wood in a circular pattern. This is why when you cut an oak tree down, you will find that it has rings inside the trunk. Scientists use these rings to help identify the age of the tree, becaues it’s a very rigid process that the tree uses to create the strength of the trunk. The oak tree needs this system in order for it’s core to withstand all the weight of the branches and leaves that it holds at the top. This method of growth allows the tree to bear all of it’s own weight, but, in turn, it is not flexible.
Palm trees, on the other hand, have a completely different make-up beneath the surface of their bark. Palm trees do not have rigid cylinder like bundles of wood fibers. Instead, they have many random bundles of wood fibers, (imagine the junk drawer when you’ve just thrown many cables, and charges together) tangled and intertwining, with no two palm trees looking alike at their core. Because of this make-up, palm trees cannot withstand a lot of weight, which is why you will never see a palm tree with big bulky branches. It would appear to be an oversight for the Creator, because it’s not systematic or self serving. But, it’s this very method that allows palm trees to bend over 50 degrees when the wind blows.
God wants to anchor us in the storms of life, AND at the same time, He wants to allow storms to stretch us, and bend us.
God wants us to be RESILIENT and FLEXIBLE, all at the same time.
I can think of no better example (although there are lots) of resilience AND flexibility, than Nehemiah.
Nehemiah had to be a chill person. His profession as a cupbearer would demand it. The king’s cupbearer would take a drink of everything the king was served before the king would drink it. If the cupbearer began to convulse, foam at the mouth, and keel over, the king was just spared from an assassination attempt. Sad day for the cupbearer.
But I think it would be safe to say that the #1 qualification for being a cupbearer would be flexibility followed by #2 resilience. But isn’t interesting how God uses meager beginnings to prepare you for mighty things? God needed to develop Nehemiah’s flexibilty and build up his resilience for the big thing He had for Nehemiah.
Nehemiah was tasked by God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. This was no easy task at all. First, he had to go before the king and ask to leave his post as cupbearer to return to his home and begin the incredibly seemingly impossible task of rebuilding the single most effective defense system of the largest city in Israel.
But God had destined him to be flexible, and resilient. And I can think of no better image than Nehemiah, once he had recruited his co-laborers, and attracted the haters. Let’s pick up in Chapter 4 of Nehemiah. Here we find the laborers concernced about the planned attacks from Sanballot and his gang, who were bound and determined to stop the rebuilding of the wall no matter the cost, even if the cost was death. So under the leadership of Nehemiah, these workers morphed into bivocational construction workers and soldiers.
The laborers carried on their work with one hand supporting their load and one hand holding a weapon. 18 All the builders had a sword belted to their side.Nehemiah 4:17-18
The image of Nehemiah working with a hammer in one hand and a sword in the other is the perfect image of resilience AND flexibility. The storm was raging with the constant threats to his life, but he continued to work resiliently, and at the same time, allowed the storm to stretch him, and bend him. He could have worked a lot better without having to carry the sword, but he was flexible.
God allowed the threats to persist because 1. He knew that Nehemiah would be resilient and flexible. And 2. He knew that the “storm” would cause the wall to be done faster. This massive wall (nearly 40 feet high and 8 feet thick) that surrounded the largest city in Israel was rebuilt in 52 days. (Now, I’m really wondering why it takes so long for pot holes to be filled…)
I’m not saying we should walk around with a paint brush and a shiv. But recognize that God has a funny way of asking us to rebuild and destroy simultaneously. An odd phenomenon of being strong without being rigid. And if we’re willing to hold to the anchor of His word with resilience and bend and stretch with His leading we will notice than even when we’re being stretched and bent, we are still standing taller, and stronger than ever and yet, the intricate designs of our core so incredibly unique…kinda like a palm tree.
Stay Tuned for Profound Thoughts.