Breaking Stem, Broken Strength

I heard at church on Sunday a speaker use the analogy of a tree. That a tree grows and needs the obvious things; water, food, sunlight, carbon dioxide. However, for a tree to grow tall and strong it needs something else; wind.
Without wind, a tree never grows what it needs to endure it’s growth. It grows taller and taller, but not stronger, so eventually breaks as it can no longer stand the pressure or take the load.
The speaker was using the analogy to talk about how we need to experience stress and disappointment in the same way the tree needs to experience wind – because it makes us tougher, it grows us stronger, and it means the more little problems we face, the more big storms we can stand firm in because of the strength we have built up.
I loved it. The teaching spoke straight to my heart and head. Made sense of some of my past experiences, and made me feel stronger for enduring certain disappointment.

When I got home, one of the roses in the bunch that my lovely fiancé bought me had snapped. It made me think of the trees Sarah had spoken of that morning in church.

The roses were elegant, long-stemmed and beautiful. Just one of them couldn’t stand the pressure. It mustn’t have got enough water or something because the rest were standing tall, just this one had snapped in the middle.
The beauty and the elegance were irrelevant, as the strength inside was lacking. We often, as humans, focus so much on the outward appearance, making sure things look ok from the outside that we forget to look after the inside. We trash our bodies, we fill our minds with rubbish, and we waste our precious time on keeping up appearances, rather than focussing on the right things and what’s actually important.
In this instance, I could take the rose, and cut it above the break, and hope that it will still flourish a little while. But what if we do that with our lives?
We work so hard at standing tall, looking good, and getting to where we need to be. We spend time, money, and energy on all this outward appearance stuff (I’m not just talking about physical looks, I’m talking about the cars we drive, the houses we live in, if we rent or buy, the job we have, the hobbies we partake in, the money we earn, the possessions we have, etc). Because we haven’t invested the same care and attention on building a strong and healthy life, we then have to cut back to a healthy point. This means cutting back on everything you spent so long reaching for. Then you’re left with what? Still a pretty rose, but one that can’t be part of the bouquet any more. One that will stand alone in a smaller display.
By cutting ourselves back we remove ourselves form our peers. We remove ourselves from the circumstances we’ve worked so hard to fit into. Still alive, but just surviving.
If we take care of ourselves from the start, building strong, healthy work ethics, friendships, relationships, attitudes to money and possessions, and everything else along with it, then we can sustain it. We can grow at the same rate as those around us, and we can stay strong. We can stay on the right path. We can go further, last longer, and love more. We can give more of ourselves because we took care of ourselves in the first place.
On an aeroplane you’re always told before the flight takes off, that in case of emergency, you should put on your own respiratory mask first, then assist others. You have to be able to breathe yourself before you can help others. You have to first look inside before you look outside.
So today, think about what’s important to you. What do you need to take care of in your life? What do you need to trim back before it cuts you off? It’s not too late to make a change, and it’s not too late to make a lasting difference. Just make sure you know what is important to you before it is too late, and make the changes now, before something else make the changes for you.

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