I find myself on the west coast this week with the opportunity to compare West Coast beaches to our East Coast beaches of North and South Carolina. Still partial to the southern East Coast shorelines. As I was looking around the beach one of the things I missed seeing were the multitude of sea oats that sprinkle our North Carolina beaches. In fact comparing the whole geography of these vast open and very brown spaces of the west make me long for the tall and colorful lush trees of North Carolina. And this made me think of our leaders today both political and religious.
As the political clammer continues swirling around us during this Primary Season of an election year I am reminded of a teaching by Henri Nouwen (late author and priest/pastor of
great spiritual wisdom and deep appreciation for community). He compares the resilience of trees and reeds. Trees with their deep root system look so much stronger compared to a field of little reeds or a shoreline of skinny sea oats. Until a storm comes along and drenches the ground. The tree easily gets uprooted but the reed pops back up after blowing furiously in the wind.
Nouwen says “Flexibility is a great virtue. When we cling to our own positions and are not willing to let our hearts be moved back and forth a little by the ideas or actions of others, we may easily be broken. Being like wild reeds does not mean being wishy-washy. it means moving a little with the winds of the time while remaining solidly anchored in the ground.”
How wise is this analogy when we think about those who best survive history. It is those that figure out how to ebb and flow with the times while not completely losing themselves to every whim that blows their way. Yet, because of aversion to change or maybe it’s an aversion to different ideas, too many of our leaders and even our friends cling to a rigidity of ideology and routine so that over time they run the risk of being the old, tall tree that topples over during the big storm that powers through.
“A humorless, intense, opinionated rigidity about current issues might cause them to break our spirits and make us bitter people. Let’s be flexible while being deeply rooted.” I love the idea of being able to be deeply rooted while being flexible to blow in the wind of our times. Jesus himself found a way to do just that. While those around him sought the rigidity of the religious and political laws, he flexed those laws in order to heal hurting people on the Sabbath, or touch those suffering from unclean leprosy and socially eat with those that would have typically tarnished his reputation for the sake of the more important law of loving your neighbor.
For those who feel like flexibility is an unacceptable compromise, consider the actual strength of the reed. And may more of our political and religious leaders seek the virtues of the flexible reed.
Grace and Peace,
Quote come from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey daily devotional.