During a recent wind storm, I watched a forest of lithe, towering trees do their violent dance. To my surprise, one tree that should have been thrashing remained still. Bent backward perhaps halfway up its 60-foot height, the tree stood awkwardly with its topmost branches cradled in the branches of another tree – like a person bending from the waist to lay her head on another person’s shoulder.
Now several days later, the bent tree still lies against the other tree. Or does the other tree hold the bent tree in a headlock?
While tossing wildly in the wind, did the now-bent tree crack and fall back? Or did the tree get trapped? Did its thrashing crown get caught in the other tree’s branches – like the long locks of King David’s son Absalom?
Quick Bible story summary: David loved Absalom, yet David did not handle family situations wisely or well. Absalom had huge anger issues – so huge that he betrayed his father and staged an almost-successful mutiny in order to crown himself king.
One day during that tumultuous time, Absalom “was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going” (2 Sam. 18:9).
What sounds funny proved deadly. While the tree branches held Absalom captive, David’s loyal followers stopped the mutiny at its source. What the tree branches did to Absalom physically, anger and pride had already done spiritually. Indeed, pride and anger have trapped many a young man – and set him up for the kill.
Today I eye the bent tree, wondering: Is it cradled – or caught? Did the other tree stop its fall – or take it captive? Is the “rescuer” tree actually holding the bent tree in tension and slowly causing it to break?
Wondering about trees, I consider people:
- In tumultuous times, people can get ensnared in dysfunctional relationships that may look tender and sweet from afar.
- In tumultuous times, people can fall prey to destructive emotions that may seem justified and even satisfying.
Beware of anything that pretends to cradle but really traps. Whatever holds you in a vise sets you up for the kill.
If you’re already snared, release begins with the recognition: “I’m not cradled. I’m caught.” Refuse to settle for captivity. At the same time, quit the struggling that just leaves you more entrapped. It’s that kind of struggling that will wear you out and sink you into the unnatural stillness of despair.
God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it (1 Cor. 10:13 NET Bible).
Regardless whether you’ve gotten tangled in a destructive relationship or in your own destructive responses to life, cry out to this faithful God. Ask him to show you the way of escape. Ask him for the strength and perseverance to take it.
Don’t live indefinitely like a bent tree, held fast. You can again stand tall and free.