Thursday, April 26, 2012

Strength Like a Redwood

CC image courtesy of OSU Special Collections & Archives
 on Flickr 

I've been fascinated by trees lately. During quiet times, I constantly find myself staring at the strong oak trees out my window. Swaying in the wind, bending but still standing strong after a storm. What's even more amazing are those redwood trees in California. Most everyone has seen a picture in a tourism magazine of the happy family standing underneath one. Perhaps, you've even been able to do this.

As I ponder the strength of the redwood and all trees, I am reminded that their strength resides in how deeply rooted they are in their foundations. Think about it--what destroys a tree during a hurricane? First the foundation must be saturated, weakening the tree's root system, and then the wind topples the tree. Aren't we the same? If not grounded in a foundation of truth, we can be easily swayed.

I was once mocked by an individual in my own life in regard to my dedication to a particular cause. The cause was human trafficking, and I was attempting to discuss how important it was to me. The individual I was speaking with asked rather insensitively how the fight was going in response to a comment I made about doing my part to "fight human trafficking." I wanted to say, "Well, it's rather discouraging as there are approximately 800,000 to 900,000 victims annually trafficked across international borders worldwide (Department of State). It's rather disheartening to think about as I freely get out of my own bed in the morning, put on my choice of clothes, and head out the door into my free world." I chose in that moment to be polite and forgiving, but the insinuation that was made in that one comment was meant to discourage me. Sometimes the people doing the discouraging don't mean to do so. They don't even realize they were used as tools of the enemy to kill, steal, and destroy a godly heart with a big dream. The simple reality was that the comment was meant to convince me that the money I was giving to organizations that combat sex trafficking, the mission trip I had been on, the shopping decisions I consciously make regarding fair trade, and all of my future goals to help combat modern-day slavery were all in vain...that I could not make any kind of noticeable difference. 

Oh well, perhaps I should just give up and accept the fact that poor little me can not really do anything to make a significant difference in the world. Now, there's an idea--that I am insignificant and minuscule in comparison to the evil that encompasses our world. Interesting thought, for without God, this is true. Thank God that He is great because I am small and can't do it all on my own.  As Christians, it's important that we know where our strength comes from. The minute we forget and let others convince us that we are not making a difference in the world by doing good, we open ourselves to negativity that can only distract us from our goals. Like trees, we can be uprooted from our foundation when the flood of negative thoughts, words, and actions come in.

Looking at the many challenges that lie ahead of me, I know I can't do great things by myself...and I'm ok with that. You see, I don't have to be the strong one that accomplishes good by myself. For, God is my redwood. God is my mighty oak. God is my strength, and together we will accomplish great things in this world. ("Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can't believe that, believe what you see--these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I'm doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I've been doing."
-John 14:11-12, The Message Bible)

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

To provide for them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. 
(Isaiah 61:3, King James)