I made friends with Charleston a few weeks ago. It was the first time I’ve ever explored a city on my own and I spent most of the time wandering around the historic district. I loved the old stone streets, iron gates, hidden gardens, the peaceful graveyards, and I wanted to climb into nearly every southern live oak I met. One morning, I took a tour, and the guide mentioned off-hand that these oaks grow outward instead of vertically because they’ve evolved to withstand storms. Deep roots, shorter stature, and wide branches keep them standing.
I’ve thought about that a lot, how what they have been through has shaped them and prepares them for what might be still to come. Those outspread limbs, caused by the need to survive, now provide comfort for people and animals alike. Shade from a hot sun, shelter from rain, company for grieving hearts. They felt so generous, these oaks reaching out, like arms open to hold space for whatever needs to be held.
I don’t know how long it takes, how many seasons pass before our storms are the reason we can offer some measure of shelter to someone else standing in the rain.
I do know I’m grateful for the comfort of opened-wide words, music, hearts, and I don’t take for granted what it costs and the deep grace it requires to unfurl such respite, to create space for someone else to find sanctuary.
I don’t know how long it takes to get there. But maybe part of the process is over and over again leaning into trust that these roots will find their way deeper and deeper until they’re strong enough for that day. Maybe part of the process is remembering, every day, that the storms may help shape us, but they don’t get to stop us from growing into a purpose that is full and beautiful and needed. Not hidden, not crushed, not destroyed, but standing steady and strong, fully open beneath the light of the sun.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4