Swaying Trees

We live in a neighborhood that backs up to a wooded area. It is breathtaking to gaze out at the trees in bloom in the springtime. And in the autumn, the colors of the turning leaves are a showstopper. Nature at its finest is my backyard.

The ground drops off to a ravine that ends in a small creek. To know that deer and fox and coyotes run loose in the space is thrilling, to say the least.

But it’s the trees that catch my attention on this day.

We’re having a windstorm and the slender trees are swaying in rhythm with the breeze. The beauty of the rhythmic swaying is almost tranquil, if I wasn’t aware of the damage one strong wind could cause.

In a wooded area, the older trees have much larger trunks than the young saplings. They’ve had the time and space and light to grow wide and tall. But the younger trees are a different story. They are thin and reedy. Wispy and willowy. They sway easily with the wind. They count on their roots to hold them steady.

The small trunked trees must grow tall in order to catch the sun’s rays. Their trunks don’t reach a fully mature size, due to the space and light restrictions. So when the windstorms come, these small trees sway with all they’ve got. It’s amazing and frightening at the same time to watch them bend with the wind. And yet, somehow at the end of the storm, they stand tall and strong. They’ve learned resilience. And strength. Their trunk may be small, but they bend as the force pushes.

But I’m wrong when I think that the wispy trees are strong and steady because of their roots. Just this morning, I noticed a casualty from the windstorm three days ago. One tiny but tall tree had been easily uprooted by the wind. The exposed roots told the story. They weren’t deep and broad. They weren’t made to withstand the strength of the wind. The tree was lying on its side among the leaves and branches fallen from another day’s wind.


Everyone who hears my teaching and applies it to his life can be compared to a wise man who built his house on an unshakeable foundation. Matthew 7:24


I work for a consulting firm that helps hospitals and other healthcare organizations prepare for and guard against disaster. Not just one kind of disaster, but many different types. Ransomware. Hacking. Phishing. Environmental. You get the idea.

This year has been a true test for our clients. It began with the pandemic. These clients had to pivot practically overnight to be able to provide care for patients infected with an unfamiliar virus. They sent some workers home to avoid exposure. They lost revenue due to canceled procedures and strategic plans gone awry. Now, just as they thought they were turning the corner, they’re facing another round of the virus.

And to top it all off, some hospitals have been hit with a disastrous ransomware attack. The bad actor, as it’s called, is unknown at this point. But it’s causing procedures to be canceled. Entire email systems have been shut down in order to avoid spreading the attack to other hospitals.

My job is to help make sure they are aware of these attacks and to fight against them. That means they should have a plan in place so they’re ready at a moment’s notice. We’ve advised clients to pull out that unused plan and dust it off. Put it into action to see if it really works. We’ve told them that now is the time to act. Don’t wait until disaster happens to start preparing.

You can’t wait until the storm comes to build a boat.

Tara Leigh Cobble

Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash. Matthew 7:24-27

I find that life is the same as the trees. We sway with the winds of change. We bend low when the momentum of the moment takes us beyond our comfort zone. We don’t know where to turn. We’re tossed on every side. And we’re unsure which is the right path. Confusion and doubt set in. We question everything that we once knew to be true.

But what have we done to prepare for the storm? Have we stored up supplies and built a reserve? Have we, through the years, held fast to our faith and followed God’s path? Have we dug into the Word and studied as though the final exam is tomorrow? How deep do our spiritual roots really go? Are we susceptible of being toppled, roots and all, from the least bit of tests and trials that blow our way? And then what? Do we still have faith to hold on?

Or. Have our roots grown deep and wide in the soil of faith? Have we built our spiritual house on rocks that won’t budge when the mightiest winds blow our way? Do we have a band of fellow warriors holding us accountable and praying for us? Do we hold onto the pylons of God’s goodness, knowing he is with us in every step of our battle?

Swaying is fine. It builds strength and perseverance. When the waves of doubt come, it’s time to dig deep to find truth. Hold onto hope. Giving voice to those doubts and looking for answers are stepping stones to building a strong faith. Don’t give up. Give in to God’s goodness and love and ride out the storm in his arms.

After we moved into our house, the city planted a tree in the green space between the sidewalk and the street. The previous tree had died, and the city replaced it. Free of charge. Oh. We didn’t get our choice of trees. It was a freebie, after all. And the next year, a city worker came by and added a stake to stabilize and straighten the small, crooked tree. This poor tree needed help as it was growing. It had begun to lean to one side and needed support in its formative years. The stake is still in place, and the tree is still leaning. But it’s growing. Perhaps, the leaning will be its signature story of its survival.

The neighbors have a tree that is leaning precariously toward another neighbor’s house. It was hit with an onslaught of wind last week, and I’m afraid one more strong burst of wind will topple it. I don’t think there’s a chance of recovery. I’m afraid it will soon be turned into mulch. While the tree looked strong and healthy, one windstorm has shown the true story of this tree’s struggle for survival.

Trees face an uncertain future if they haven’t grown firm, strong roots. Even then, the winds and storms can destroy them in one fell swoop.

If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? If a person is struggling and holds in all their doubt, does it mean their pain isn’t real?

It’s in these struggling moments that we need to be prepared. We can’t wait until the storms of life are upon us to start preparing. We must act now. It’s never to late to strengthen our faith. Let’s dust off that Bible. Let’s fall on our knees and pray. Let’s attend church and fellowship with other believers. Let’s ask those questions of doubt and seek answers until we find the truth.

A house built on sand will not stand. But a house built on rock will stand strong. What is your house built on?

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