Propped Up Kingdoms

I was caught off guard by the beauty.  I had just driven out of the Miami International Airport (which could be the ugliest and most run down airport in the US).  I picked up the rental car and pointed southwards to meet up with my brother and dad and to chase tarpon on the fly rod.

What pleasantly surprised me was the landscaping around the airport.  It was teeming with tropical beauty.  Big mature palm trees blowing in the warm breeze; flowering bushes in abundance.

However, as I looked closely, I realized that there was nothing truly “mature” about it; it was all new.  When I took an even closer look at the “mature” palm trees, I saw that every one of these hundreds of trees had been newly transplanted and was at the mercy of three wooden stakes, artificially propping it up, serving as a makeshift alternative to deep roots.

“This is a picture of men in their thirties.  Son, I’m inviting you to lay down the props.”

It caught me off guard.  Before I could edit my hearing, I realized the Father was giving a picture of us as men in our thirties.

In this decade, life comes to us like a flood – a raging river bulging at the seams.  One mentor put it this way:  he said of the decade, “I found myself inexplicably on a massive roller coaster. There was no way off.  It took everything in me just to hold on for the ride.”

The deepest questions of the masculine heart remain mostly underground. Who am I as a man?  Where will I find validation in my deep desire to be loved?  To matter? To become?

And so most of us in this decade dive head first, subconsciously, reaching for an answer to find validation for our deep heart.

We set out to make a name for ourselves.

To make a little money.

To get something going.

And before we know it, we’re a tree… more “mature” externally and contextually than the root system below the ground can handle.

We build kingdoms (companies, churches, missions, ideas, influences, homes, balance sheets) that don’t have the roots to withstand the storms.  When all is well, they look stable.  We turn a blind eye to the stakes artificially propping up our masculinity. We champion the application of leverage on many fronts turning a blind eye to the whisper of the sage bringing counsel from years down the road, with a gentler yet firm reminder; “You know, son, leverage cuts both ways.  It’s a double edged sword.”

And all is well, until the winds turn to gale force.  Until the floods come.  Until the kingdoms come crashing down.  Jesus promised that in this world we will have trouble. The storms will come.

What are your stakes?  Where have you positioned a stake to artificially prop up the world you have created? What aspect of your world doesn’t have a root system deep enough to stand on its own true maturity?  Remember there are no shortcuts.

The decade of the thirties is a decade of removing the stakes.

By way of contrast I was caught off guard last week by a remarkable and mature pine tree while mountain biking with some peers deep in the national forest.

What struck me about this tree were the roots and the life pulsing through the tree.  Exposed by years of terrible erosion caused by a road poorly cut into the mountainside, this mighty tree had eventually suffered the consequences and fallen.  Yet, it was still alive. And actually thriving.  It was still providing life and habitat.  And in a wild way, it was actually more beautiful, strong and true in its current form than it would have been standing tall.  It was closer to death in one way, and in another, still teeming with life.  And therein lays the great risk…. There is great risk for a tree to fall and indeed lead to a sort of death.  And yet in this I find myself turning back to the counsel of our God:

Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal. (John 12)

I want deep roots.  I want to serve and lead a kingdom that is proportional to my maturity and wholeness of heart and to lead it well.  To lead in love.

This decade is a decade of excavation. It is a decade of tearing out hard and rocky soil and partnering with God to infuse good soil (Luke 8).  It is a decade of establishing the deep roots that can withstand the storms that are building in the western sky.

Here’s to no stilts.

Let fall what needs to fall.

The peace that results is worth the pain.

And there is hope at the end of this trail. I am sure of it…