In church this morning, our pastor spoke of the bio-dome experiment in the 1980’s where the aim was to create the perfect atmosphere for human and plant life. All was controlled, from the temperature to the water to the light to the air. And yet the funny thing was that trees just toppled over after they grew to a certain height – they just couldn’t support their own weight. Why?
There was no wind to force the trees to grow deep roots.
And that got me thinking. About the forces that blow against us. About the trials we are burdened to bear. We put our heads down as the wind whips and bites. We flip up our collars on Michigan Avenue and hunker down. We don’t have the luxury of hiding, or giving in, and so we trudge forward in the headwinds and just mutter curses under our breaths at the enduring.
And sometimes we feel like breaking, when death blows like a hurricane into our lives when we least expect it. My mother’s father died the moment he retired. A slip off the scaffolding trying to repair a water leak on the building he had just managed to close. They were going to travel, my grandfather and his bride, after years of toil in the sand and gravel pits, dirty and drained. He worked his whole life for the sweet smell of victory. Retirement. Money in the hole. And yet a hole swept through my mother’s young tender heart. The winds, they howled.
And often times when it rages you simply hide curled up in a bathtub covered in mattresses, because love isn’t supposed to end and covenants are too powerful to break and cells are too precious to be eaten up by tumors. When you lift up the coils and look around, all you see is soggy destruction, and you fall to the ground weeping at the broken china and the tables overturned and the photo albums lost. Because roots, they are shallow. A hurricane blown through a soul that believed.
Sometimes I meet people who live a charmed life. They move from job to job and relationships come and go until they settle upon a good solid choice with two cars in suburbia. They prance their way through medical school and waltz their kids into private school whilst drinking lattes in a sharp Tuesday blazer. I shudder at the thought. That they will grow to a certain height and then topple over. Because the winds, my dear friends – they are coming. When we least expect it as we stare into televisions and walk blindly into offices toward afternoon meetings or feel isolated inside our own marriages and are pretending to live a life. We find ourselves suddenly and desperately alone. Despite our wild successes. Despite those around us who love, or beg for us to return. And like a duster on the south plains the wind kicks at our ankles like a tickle. Until it rages, and we find ourselves beneath the mattress in the bathtub, where all is lost.
It is times like these I hear James pounding in my ears that blessed is the man who perseveres under trials. But not because of our own strength but the one who strengthens. Don’t you see, my neighbors? You, who is standing in what was a living room but is now just wet dripping boards or you, trapped inside the walls of an operating room wanting to tear off your own skin? We can’t escape the winds, even when we try.
But it’s not our roots that are deep, for our own roots are so very shallow. It’s who we’re linked to that matters. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you are nothing.” James 15:5. It is the ability to graft onto Him, and trust He will sustain, and believe in all things and in all ways God is always, forever faithful. This is what allows us to stand. To weather. To be thankful for winds that tear and rip and destroy. We know that without Him we are a toppling bunch of cards.
My friends, how elegant this truth. How grateful is my weary heart for trials. For when the rainbow bursts forth it is a Technicolor morning, colors so bright they are blinding. Love springs forth new and houses are rebuilt and new covenants are formed. We raise up what was lost, not in consolation but in new brilliant glory. And we know that the next time around nothing can destroy us.
The winds will come. Get on your bike and head straight into them, with teeth clenched and a mind determined, for nothing can stop or destroy the love God has for you. What is the worst the bitter winds can do? For even in death, we are not defeated. That, my friends, is perseverance. So I say to the winds: howl.