Outside the south wall of my office, a row of big white boulders runs along the border of the building. By estimation rather than actual measure, I guess that each one weighs several hundred pounds. Some probably go a half-ton or more. Each is pocked with small holes. Imagine a huge chunk of bleached sponge with relatively little ability to absorb and retain much water and quite definitely unsuited for cleaning spills or washing a car.
As I walked along the sidewalk running east and west beside the rocks, I noticed a tiny tree growing from one of the holes one of the big rocks. The shape of its leaves suggested “birch” but there may be a dozen varieties of trees whose leaves take that shape in their early stages. Again by estimation rather than actual knowledge, I imagine a seed drifted about in the south Kansas breeze for some time, eventually winding up in that particular hole in that particular rock.
There may have been some similar means that brought about a small deposit of dirt and humus in that same hole. Recent rains added moisture, the sun added its abetting and the seed did what seeds are made to do; it sprouted.
I’ve seen similar events in many of the places I’ve hiked over the years. Tiny trees growing in rocks and boulders. I’ve even seen large trees, comparatively speaking, growing from the face of a bluff. Most often, it’s either a cedar or some sort of scraggly pine or yew.
As said, I’ve seen many trees surviving even when growing in a rock.
But I’ve never seen a tree that I would say is thriving in such an environment. A tree can sprout in a rock, yes. Sometimes it can grow and send its roots through the seams of stone into something resembling soil. It can hold on for years, even decades. But to truly thrive, it needs a deeper store of moisture and nurture, a setting more suited to achieving something beyond survival.
I’ve seen humans in similar settings.
Sometimes it’s a marriage that turned out to be far less than what we imagined. Sometimes it’s a work situation. It can even be a church. Whatever it is, we feel that we are starving, exhausted and thirsty and there’s just no source of nourishment for us in that setting.
Sometimes, we effect a change of some degree. Sometimes, the degree seems drastic. A new spouse, a new job, a different church. Sometimes, we seek that change too quickly. We forget that our God can use ravens to feed a prophet, that He can send forth water from a rock. We forget that the strength needed to flourish in the green season often comes from time spent in the dry. Roots with easy moisture do not seek the deeper store.
Still, it is sometimes true that the place where we are first planted is not the place where we are intended to stay and grow and serve. Until that time of replanting comes, we can control our attitude, focus on the good and be grateful for that. We can also consider the needs of others.
When we seek to move the small tree from the rock into the garden, we must work with gentle hands and caring hearts. And it is good for us to remember that though we are limited, we are not helpless. Even when we cannot completely change the situation, we can offer support and encouragement. If we cannot move the tree or even budge the boulder, we can at least bring water.