I went to the riverfront one evening hoping to enjoy a beautiful sunset, but discovered the setting sun was blocked by a forest of trees. Looking for a place to sit, I was drawn to a bench under a particularly shading tree. The metal placard on the bench read: “Sit and rest a while,” and that seemed like a good idea.
I was resting and reflecting on the day’s blessings and my life overall when I noticed the tree trunk. I had been to the park many times over the past four years but had never noticed that this tree trunk had grown at a remarkable slant. How could a tree grow slanted, I began to wonder. I looked around at other tree trunks more closely and noticed many of the trees had not grown up straight and narrow. Many had grown in crooked, twisted patterns. I marveled at the patterns and laughed at my memories of my grandmother’s demands that I stand up straight and tall, and straighten my feet.
Stand up straight and tall – or not!
I was delighted by what I was seeing through the trees. I remembered being 12 or so and my grandmother commanding me, “Don’t slouch. Stand up like you know God made you to be somebody.” And I’ll never forget her looking down at my pigeon toes telling me, “And straighten those feet! You are nobody’s pigeon.” I had made a conscious decision to turn my feet outward, never mind my fallen arches, and when I could afford braces to straighten my teeth, I bought them. I bought invisaligns though and did not complete the straightening process because of the discomfort. But I have tried to straighten my self, my life, in many ways. I have been straightening my hair, straightening my resume trying to show a disciplined work history. But the trees were teaching me otherwise.
I noticed trees broken at the roots just above ground. They continued to stand tall giving shade with new leaves this season. I noticed tree barks splintered in twos threes and fours. I had never noticed trees this way and will never look at trees – or people – as I had before. Some of us grow up straight and tall. Some of us grow at a slant, some are beautifully twisted and crooked at the core. Some of us break when strong winds come. Some of us bend. Some loose big branches, some of us don’t.
I also got to thinking about the uniqueness of the various trees all standing in the same area. The Willow was a Willow from the beginning and cannot become an Evergreen no matter how much it prays or tries to imitate. I will be only what God created me to be and with that realization I felt a great measure of relief. It was as if the sun was setting on a certain set of anxieties within me. I left the park knowing the sunset I sought had not been blocked by the trees. The trees had revealed it.