Storm Damage

Hurricane Arthur blew through town yesterday, bringing a lot of rain and some high winds. It came up the coast right after storms blew in from the west. Fortunately, the sun was shining in a cloudless sky by the time I took my walk this morning. The only signs of yesterday’s storms in my yard were a couple of bent hollyhocks and corn stocks. High and Main streets had a few puddles in the road and some small branches on lawns – nothing remarkable. It could have been so much worse.

Only one tree on High street lost a huge limb. I didn’t notice it at first because it hadn’t fallen all the way to the ground. I saw it because of the color difference between the outside and inside parts of the tree – the light inner wood showed up against the ivy covered bark. The break wasn’t a clean split, but something resembling the damage in termite infested wood. Arthur wasn’t strong enough to damage healthy trees, but was enough to fracture this one. The true damage came from ivy; the tree is covered in it, from ground to top, enclosing the trunk and all the limbs. Over many years, the tree died as the ivy sent its roots into the wood. There is no living tree beneath the ivy now. Only the strength of the ivy keeps the tree upright and intact – short one branch, thanks to Arthur. It’s just a matter of time before the tree comes down, falling under the weight of the ivy or cut down by a tree surgeon. Either way, High street is poorer for its death.

Appearances can be deceiving. Internal damage, spiritual destruction, isn’t always visible. Sometimes it’s covered in vitality, giving every appearance of health while slowly killing true life. Outer growth can come from a robust inner life, deeply rooted and strong; it can also be something that causes and masks damage, slowly draining the spirit until there is nothing left but a facade. It’s only when a storm comes that the truth is revealed.

There’s ivy growing in my yard. Like many things, it’s wonderful in small amounts but deadly if allowed to take over. I keep an eye on it and spend a lot of time cutting it back when necessary. The tree on High street and my own yard remind me to keep an eye on my inner life as well as what thrives on the surface. Storms blow through, and the truth is revealed: will it be life or death?

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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

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