I was talking to the ladies in my Bible Study about the vacation my husband and I were taking to Hawaii to visit his son. I told them I was struggling with whether or not I should take my laptop with me. Earlier in the evening I had identified it as something I am currently overdoing in my life – it is an activity that is out of balance and cutting into God’s plan for me. These ladies who had just heard me confess this insisted I leave my laptop home. Seeing the wisdom of it, I left the study convinced and excited about the freedom of traveling without it. But as the evening wore on I began rationalizing why it should come…
- If I handwrite on my trip I’ll have to retype it when I get home
- My emails will pile up if I don’t manage them for a week
- I’ll want to check activities we might want to do, weather, places to go so I don’t miss anything
- I want to find a church to attend on Sunday and that will be harder without Google
- I will only use it while Ed’s watching TV at night
I grappled all night with the subject, right up to my Morning Prayer time. In the back of my mind I knew I’d have to face the disappointment of those dear ladies who hold me accountable if I dragged that idol along on my vacation. I almost laughed aloud when God revealed the absurdity of the consuming decision it had become. The realization made me happy to leave it behind, knowing that the choice was honoring God.
In Hawaii, with my toes in the sand or sitting poolside, I read Lysa TerKeurst’s, The Best Yes – so relevant to making better use of my time. The sun would have interfered with my computer screen, forcing me inside, instead we walked, rode bikes, explored the island, and enjoyed the time outdoors.
On our final morning we took a long walk around the park and beach adjacent to our hotel, savoring the beauty of the tropical scenery. I was struck by the simplicity and uncluttered design of the palm trees scattered along the beach. Standing alone, a single trunk stretching straight to the sky before producing a cluster of green foliage, they show no visible root support. The palms were in stark contrast to the busy banyan trees bearing multiple trunks supporting huge canopies of leaves and branches.
With a thankful heart I reflected not only on the blessing of our trip, but also on my deeper walk with God. I couldn’t help but relate each tree to seasons in my life.
I love the palm trees. I grew up near the beach and love to return to it for times of quiet reflection. Palm trees embody the breezy sea air surrounding that uncluttered space where God’s answers seem easier to find. There is not, however, any visible support for the “me” represented in that lone palm tree. No fellowship, no community, no branching out, no risks. Just me standing alone with God. In Hawaii I saw myself in those palms – for the years I failed to fully connect and grow spiritually.
Now, the banyan is a different story all together, about as far from a palm as you can get. They are forever growing, branching out and spreading to take on new territory. New areas of growth are supported by a thin aerial root, then another and another, twisting in the wind until they hit the ground and thicken into additional trunks to sustain the tree’s progress. I began picturing each step I’ve taken in faith and obedience along those branches as I was supported by the roots of God pouring into me through his Word, his Holy Spirit, faithful people, etc. My mind (sometimes a scary place!) was turning the banyan into something like this:
Along with all the progress represented in this picture, there is a lot going on! Can you see why I will always cherish the character of the palm image? My solitude each morning is one of them. I am in a season of my life that allows me to rise early in a quiet home, spending time in prayer and God’s Word before the rest of the house awakens – my beautiful palm. And last year I spent 2 nights, alone, at a hotel on the beach. My soul connected with God like it can’t when surrounded by activity, responsibilities, and people I love – my blessed palm. I could feel guilt about desiring my palm tree time, except that it is different now. Rather than being separated from the banyan of community because of my reluctance to commit, insecurity, or disobedience, I am now a palm with purpose! I am being still, knowing my God, listening for answers to the questions of my heart, and being thankful, realizing how he has blessed my life and how big he is becoming in it.
I need time as a palm tree between seasons of Banyan growth. There is great perspective soaring solo above the busy activity of Banyan development. Hidden palm roots grow deep, they fan out to great distances, providing a solid, grounded base. The trunk of a palm bends in the wind without breaking, it’s supple, low maintenance, focused above. It produces fruit that quenches thirst, even before maturity, and food for a hungry soul.
I noticed something else about the banyans – their movement is so aggressive that, left unchecked, they will consume and strangle a palm tree. Can you identify? There have been seasons in my life that I have been incredibly successful at work, but stressed to the point of bug eyed sleepless nights. And not just at work. I’ve over-volunteered to help with worthwhile, meaningful service projects without fully considering how the opportunity and its timing will fit into my sometimes over-crowded schedule. Piling activities, tasks, and people into my life without balance separates me from God. I become too busy to recognize that my peace is being strangled until activity is in danger of strangling me.
A friend recently told me that for a time she was keeping a tablet handy during her prayer time. She reasoned that if she could jot down tasks that popped into her mind and diverted her attention she’d be able to let them go for now and continue her study. I can see the logic in that, but really? Can’t we prune the banyan of our minds for palm tree time set aside to “Be still and know that I am God”? (Ps. 46:10) For me that doesn’t happen without intention, so I prioritize my never ending to do list in light of the big picture of eternity. And because I am prone to wander from that plan, I build support into it by consistently building banyan roots.
Finishing up our final walk with all its symbolism, I came upon this poor tree, all beat up and pushed down by the elements. It is literally lying on its side. But, do you see how someone’s come along and propped it up with a rock pillar? With that encouragement notice how the tree got back on track, progressing upward rather than continuing on its spiral downward? Isn’t that just like a friend? Life isn’t always easy; bad things sometimes happen to good people. Good people sometimes make really poor decisions. Building community and Sabbath rest in my life will keep my eyes on all things eternal and help balance the Palm and Banyan within me!