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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Roots and branches

The children are the only ones brave enough to move in this heat that hangs idly in the air, thick and smothering. On Sunday afternoon, when Nathan comes in from playing basketball, his face apple red, beads of sweat across his forehead, and a basketball under his arm, he asks for a glass of water, apparently not all that hot and bothered that he has lasted only a half an hour in the near 100 temperatures. The sky darkens behind him, the sun disappearing into a suddenly impenetrable charcoal grey sky. In a matter of minutes, the temperature falls fifteen degrees, and the winds start to blow. When the rains begin, it falls in fierce sheets, and for a few minutes, we watch from the porch until the sky drives us inside behind the safety of our windowpanes.

The lights flicker, and Andrew, wearing his Captain America mask, starts to cry when the house goes black. I pick him up, and he clings tightly to my neck, his legs gripping my waist. “God, is this going to be a flood?” he prays, trembling in my arms.

“Daddy! I want Daddy!” Captain America flies into the arms of someone stronger.

From the living room, I watch the neighbor’s tree that normally stands twice as tall as their house now bend precariously, as if the heaven themselves have taken their seat. The tributaries of sky fall in rivulets down the windowpane, the wind howls and thrashes, beating against all that stands naked under the open blackness of sky.

The tree is the best bet in a storm like this.

Standing as tall as it does, I know from my very limited botany that its roots must run equally deep. The visible and invisible parts of the tree are a delicate balancing act, the visible beauty of the tree held secure by an invisible root system shooting forty feet into the ground, reaching its arms wide and deep into soil.

It will take more than a July thunderstorm to uproot a tree like that.

I remember how my life is like a tree and I am reminded that the visible parts of me are secured by the invisible. I am nourished, held fast in the soil of private spiritual disciplines.

Ordering Your Private World is a book I read and appreciated years ago: it makes the case for living your public life out of the overflow of your private life. And you don’t have to be Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise to be public figures. You simply have to leave your windowpanes.

When you do, you will be met with winds. Howling, thrashing, your tree will bend under the weight. But when your roots run deep – into Jesus, into love, into an inner conversation that is meant to make even little Captain Americas brave  - it will take more than a July thunderstorm to uproot you.