There is a tree in front of my house. It is beautiful and is cloaked for all seasons– it flings white confetti in spring– becomes brilliant green in the summer– blazes amber in autumn. Though this tree– my tree– is lovely to look at, I worry about it because once my mom told me that Bradford Pear trees have shallow roots. Sometimes when the wind howls and the rain falls I see the tree sway into the angry sky and threaten to topple– it hasn’t yet– and I pray it doesn’t.
And so lately, I can’t help but think: I’ve been feeling a little too much like my tree– jostled by the searing words of others–feeling the sting of accusation– mostly from strangers on the internet– and I’ve been wondering: just how deeply am I rooted? You know that song you were taught to say in elementary school? “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me?” Hah. Words have always cut me deeper than any physical pain. I know the rhyme is well-intentioned, and we need to be strong because we live in an age where violence is carried out with the keyboard just as well as a weapon.
I don’t want to cause anybody pain with my words. I also want to teach myself to be stronger and not let the words or opinions of others affect me so profoundly. I want to be the oak tree by the river– well-nourished and deeply rooted. I want to say that the empty words– like weeds– cannot strangle me, and I want to believe that the opinions of others have no power over me. I want to accept that what other people think about me isn’t for me, and I want to– like the woman in Proverbs 31–“laugh without fear of the future.” But it is hard to reverse the pattern of people-pleasing and the storm is unrelenting, and quite frankly– I am weary. And so I am trying hard to release the battle–because it was never really mine to begin with, was it? I have a protector: God. His promises are the armor that the weapons of negativity cannot infiltrate. But still, I am human. And sometimes I accidentally lower the shield and surrender the fight.
Yesterday morning as my thoughts were frazzled, heart sullen, I was prompted– read Psalm 91. So I did. Later that afternoon I went back to that place, letting the negativity in– allowing it to swarm in my head, giving it permission to sting hard– so my sweet husband took my hand and said, “let’s go on a walk to take your mind off of it for a bit.” He knows that I’ve been trying hard– trying to exercise self-control over thoughts, trying to remember that often opinions aren’t truth, trying to keep things on the outside where they don’t hurt as bad– trying to prevent my hurt from hurting those I love most– trying SO HARD to dwell on what is good– but that afternoon I broke down hard.
Outside, the rain fell in a mist and from the sky, right below my tree, floated a single white feather. It landed gentle at my feet. It could be considered coincidence, sure. Maybe not. Either way it reminded me of what I read that morning– that God promises to protect, and when I fail, He doesn’t– that we– ALL of us– are loved divinely– more than we can conceive: “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection” (Psalm 91:4).