“The Leaning Tree” – “caused by constant strong southerly winds” – Greenough, WA.
According to the description of this particular Eucalyptus tree, it “is known to be a hardy grower, though it has weak branches.”
Certainly, it appears to be an extremely resilient tree, growing in a region in northern Western Australia, close to the ocean, with minimal rainfall, plenty of hot summers and of course those “constant strong southerly winds”. Randolph Stow in his book, “The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea” (1968), described the scene as, “On the windswept flats, crippled gumtrees washed their hair.” These River Gums survive and grow (if only along the ground) despite the odds against them.
Maybe a good illustration of some resilient people you know, and if not, certainly it could describe the psalmist in Psalm 27. Consider some of the language used by the psalmist in this psalm to describe the things he was under pressure from at the time of writing:
Verse 2: “the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes…”
Verse 3: “Though an army besiege me…though war break out against me…”
Verse 5: “the day of trouble…”
Verse 6: “the enemies who surround me…”
Verse 10: “Though my father and mother forsake me…”
Verse 12: “false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations.”
And yet, despite all these “constant strong southerly winds”, the psalmist begins his prayer poem with the words:
The Lord is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?
Pretty inspiring words from a “crippled gumtree”!
As I observed this tree, I realized that for the early part of its life, before it grew to about 2 metres tall, it grew straight upwards, as is the norm. And yet, all during this time, those “constant strong southerly winds” blew. What changed? Why was it no longer able to withstand the winds and so succumbed and became the now well photographed “leaning tree” that it is today?
Maybe the winds grew stronger or, maybe, it is as the description above says, it “is known to be a hardy grower, though it has weak branches.” Ah, those “weak branches”!
Not so obvious in this psalm of David, but in others, he reveals just how aware he is of his own “weak branches” that so often were the cause of his downfall, that created such regrets, that hurt himself and others and disappointed his God. The most obvious description being in Psalm 51:
“O loving and kind God, have mercy. Have pity upon me and take away the awful stain of my transgressions…I admit my shameful deed…I was born a sinner…Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow…Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right desires…Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you…A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not ignore.” (Living Bible)
David knew the feeling of being a “crippled tree”, one with a “broken and contrite heart”, but he also knew that his God and King was “loving and kind” and able to restore him to Himself despite his failures.
And so in Psalm 27, he is able to say in the midst of his troubles:
2 When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. 3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.
No matter how much of a “crippled tree” you and I may feel and no matter what the “constant strong southerly winds” are in your life and mine today, we too can say, “my heart will not fear” and be confident in God to enable us to grow stronger in Him, because as David says:
The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?
There lies his secret – The Lord!
I recently received the following from a friend and considering its relevance to this psalm thought I would add it on here:
Truths to Hold When the Path Gets Tough: The Resilience Creed (taken from a blog site by Sheridan Voysey). Sheridan writes that some days we wake to a world of crystal skies and bright possibilities. And other days it’s to rain pelting our windows and thunder rattling our roofs. He then asks how can we stay strong when the storms of life hit? Is it possible not just to weather these trials, but bound back even stronger through them? Many churches have statements of faith they adhere to, called creeds. Some even recite famous one like the Apostle’s Creed weekly in their services. But as Tony Horsfall points out, in times of trial it isn’t these kinds of creeds we usually turn to, but what we know in our hearts about God. So how about a Resilience Creed that expresses truths we can hold to in times of adversity and pain? Here is Tony’s creed:
I believe that God is working all things together for my good I believe that nothing can separate me from the love of God that is mine in Christ Jesus I believe that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength I believe that God is faithful, and will not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear, but will also provide a way of escape I believe that his grace is sufficient for me, and that his strength is made perfect in my weakness I believe that he who began a good work in me will bring it to completion I believe that nothing can take me from his hand I believe that Christ will never leave me nor forsake me I believe that in every circumstance the Holy Spirit is my Comforter, Counsellor and Helper I believe that God will use every trial to refine me and to make me stronger, wiser and more compassionate
(c) 2017 Tony Horsfall (author of the book Working from a place of rest)
[Tony Horsfall’s creed is based on the following scriptures: ➢ Romans 8:28 ➢ Romans 8:38-39 ➢ Philippians 4:13 ➢ 1 Corinthians 10:13 ➢ 2 Corinthians 12:9 ➢ Philippians 1:6 ➢ John 10:29 ➢ Hebrews 13:5 ➢ John 14:15 ➢ 1 Peter 1:7]
Father, thank you that you are loving and kind and always with us in the good times as well as the tough times of our lives. Thank you, Jesus, that you too have experienced those “constant strong southerly winds” and understand what we are going through and able to give us the grace and strength to be resiliently and continue on faithfully following you. Amen.