This past November, a strong storm swept across the upper mid-west. In Door County it brought a mix of rain, sleet, freezing rain, snow, and wind. The storm pulled many branches and trees down. Ephraim was especially hard hit. Trees along the shoreline in Sister Bay, too. Even on the top of the hill where we live, Northern Pines, Douglas Firs and cedars lost tops and branches.
Walking now up and down my daily route, the damage stands out as a stark reminder of one day in November. I’ve tried to observe the branches shed and the treetops dismembered quite indiscriminately. Young sapling cedars too inexperienced with snow and wind. Middle aged pine, wise enough, strong enough, yet still disfigured. Old elm and maple alike twisted by countless seasons and countless storms. I’ve paid special attention to the 50-year-old trees to see how well they weathered the storm.
I’ve looked for a pattern—every other, every third, every 18th, but the combination of rainsleetsnowwind haphazardly pulled, pushed, and bent with no predictability. In Indiana (and Mt. Morris) you can see the path of destruction left by tornadoes. They slice through field and thicket with a very familiar northeast diagonal. But here, a pocket of treetops blend with a field of others unscathed.
One thing I have noticed and more noticeable than the brokenness, are the smaller trees that have been bent, bowed down by the weight of the weather. It is difficult to know whether they will recover or not. In time they may restraighten and be stronger for their trial. They may not endure the spring or the summer or next November’s rainsleetnowwind.
I’ve always loved the underdog (until the Patriots got good). Hollywood does, too. Miracle on Ice, Hoosiers, Rudy. All sports themed movies that focus on the loner, looser, outcasts that triumph despite the immeasurable odds against them.
In these days I’m especially cheering for the bent over cedars…whether they are literally cedars, or the minimum wage grocery clerks with no health insurance, or the EMTs and LPNs on the front line of a global epidemic. Jesus teaches about a day when weak will be the strong, the poor will be the rich, the excluded will be the included. The gospels leave this promise as an unfulfilled reality.
I don’t believe that God wants us to wait for a day when this is true. I believe that it is already true. God’s ability to transform the weak into strong, the poor into rich, the excluded into included is relentless and persistent. My hope is built on nothing less…especially as I hope for the cedars bent over, bowed, least likely to succeed.