“Everything that blooms on the tree comes from what it has underground.”
– Pope Francis
When something in my life feels out of control or overwhelming, I tend to launch headfirst into some type of home project that seems to be staring me in the face, simply begging for me to complete it. This usually results in me biting off way for more than I can chew and requiring a call to a professional at a late hour. While I’ve successfully identified the pattern, I’m not yet able to stop myself from falling into the trap. The latest target of my anxiety has been a row of arborvitae that have been devoured by deer and are succumbing to some type of disease. This once formidable green wall of privacy has begun to look like a set of teeth in need of some cosmetic surgery.
During a recent rainstorm, two trees fell over. A simple push on a third tree that was leaning over brought it out of the ground at its roots. “Piece of cake!” I thought as I began plotting to remove the remaining six trees that remained in a nonsensical pattern along my fence. The first Saturday I could, I brought out a big shovel and dug up one of the trees in 20 minutes. The second tree came out just as fast. “Next!” I yelled out to no one. I also might have flexed, and a neighbor might have seen me do it. As I approached another tree, I scoffed. Compared to the others, it was tiny and looked like it was on its last limb. I believed I could probably pull it out with one hand. I gave it a good yank and fell backwards as a million brown needles fell into my mouth. As I slammed the shovel into the ground, it felt as though I hit metal. I knelt to remove the rock that must have been there but couldn’t find one. I tried every possible angle, but it was no use. Two hours, a broken shovel, and a lot of sweat later, my neighbor (the one who might have witnessed an earlier flex) approached me with a concerned look. “This was supposed to be the easy one,” I said exasperated. “It’s not how tall the tree is,” he said as if he were Confucius, “It’s how deep the roots go.”
Sometime later, after impulsively purchasing a chainsaw and leaving a few stubborn stumps where the arborvitae used to be, I sat glaring at what remained. I am fairly certain that, barring a call to a professional, those stumps, and the roots beneath them, will remain on that property much longer than I will. I couldn’t help but wonder, in life and leadership, am I more attentive to the heights of my accomplishments or the depths of the foundations I am laying? Do I underestimate or overestimate people’s connections to me, the mission, or the project based on how the “leaves” look, without thinking about the strength of the roots? In my relationship with the Lord and the Church, what will happen in that inevitable rainstorm? Will I simply fall over or is my faith as gracefully stubborn and rooted as that stump? As we continue to celebrate the joy of this Easter Season, let’s be sure to check our roots and make sure that we are grounded in the hope that only the Risen Lord can give.
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