This summer we bought a small tree to plant in our yard. We had been wanting to get something to fill in a gap at the back of our property. Being the environmentally-conscious person that I am, I wanted to make sure to get a native plant. Meghann, who is better than me at making sure our house looks nice, also reminded me of the need to make sure that whatever we bought looked nice and ideally had pretty flowers at some point during the year. After looking at a few options that met our criteria, we settled on a dogwood tree. We bought one that was about a foot tall when we got it. Any young tree is an investment in the future, and at a height much shorter than our 1 year old daughter, this one was no exception.
As we were getting ready to plant it, Meghann and I started to discuss staking up the tree. We hadn’t ever bought a young tree like this before, but it seemed like it was probably the right thing to do to such a fragile little plant. Both of us agreed that this seemed like conventional wisdom though neither of us could say exactly who had taught us this. Isn’t that just what you’re supposed to do? Our neighbor must certainly have thought so since he had staked his two small trees that he had planted a month earlier.
Before I planted the tree, I decided to do a little research on tree staking. I was surprised to learn that unless you are planting a tall, skinny, top-heavy tree, staking is not necessary. In fact, it can actually hinder the tree’s growth. As trees grow, rocking freely in the wind causes them to develop deep, strong roots. Preventing a tree from being moved by the wind hinders this root growth and ultimately hurts the overall growth of the plant.
So to give our little tree the best possible chance to succeed in life, I planted it without any stake to hold it. As I did so, I began to contemplate the spiritual analogy of this. We all are like a growing tree. When the wind and storms come, our world gets shaken up, sometimes significantly. Yet, somehow this rocking in the breeze seems to result in us growing deeper and stronger roots. We hold onto the things that are most important to us – our faith, family, friends – and prioritize what is most important to spend our time doing. We start to view our life through a different, bigger lens. We get better at empathizing with other people around us in the midst of their own stormy periods of life. Most of all, we develop a stronger foundation to help us face the next wind or storm that will come our way.
Hairy cell leukemia has blown our family’s little tree around significantly this year. Yet through the storm it has brought to our life, I trust that we are all developing deeper roots in God and in one another. May God continue to help us all to grow in the midst of the winds that blow us.
Matt, I say a big Amen to that! Thanks for sharing another life lesson. We can all relate to your analogy. …and your young tree will flourish with such tender, loving care.