The Survivors

August 22nd, 2013
Flickr | ©Corey Leopold (pecan tree)

I spent a little time one July 4 counting the dead trees at Siete Ranch. I wanted to calculate the damage of the previous year’s record-breaking hot and dry summer. Much has been said and written about the number of trees that Texas would lose, but we had to wait in order to find out the truth.

Did I lose trees at Siete Ranch? Yes, about a half dozen. They were all located along a draw that flows with water whenever it rains. They are all inferior trees with shallow root systems that depend upon surface water. I did not lose a single quality tree, and the oaks that populate the northern and eastern perimeters of my place are strong and green. They have not only survived, but thrived.

I moved to Burkburnett, Texas in 1980, and it proved to be one of the hottest summers on record. The temperature often exceeded 110 degrees, and many people were worried about their trees. I was especially concerned about a majestic pecan that stood in the backyard of the parsonage, and I had considered buying one of the “root feeders” that were being peddled on TV. The concept was that you could stick this thing six feet into the ground in order to “deep water” the roots of your trees.

An old rancher told me with a grin on his face, “Son, you don’t need to worry about that pecan. It has a taproot that goes farther into the ground than that tree grows above it. It won’t die.” And he was right.

In the fourth chapter of John, Jesus talked about a well that never goes dry. He compared the spiritual journey with the search for superficial things that never truly satisfy us. For Jesus, the choice between those two is a fundamental one that determines the quality of one’s life.

How many times have we said this through the years? If you want to build a meaningful life that will weather the storms (or the droughts) that inevitably come, make the decision early to grow deep. While the world will constantly attempt to seduce you into growing the outward signs of success, only the spiritual journey will enable you to create a foundation for life that will sustain you in tough times. And make no mistake about it: tough times will come. The only question will be whether or not you are deeply rooted enough to survive and eventually thrive.

I understand why people plant inferior trees, and I have done it myself. They are cheaper and they grow faster. If you want a nice shade tree five or ten years from now, you have all sorts of inexpensive and easy options. But if you want a tree that will provide shade and comfort for your grandchildren, buy quality and be patient. The results can be seen all across Texas, both in trees and in people.

excerpt from: The Long View: Reflections on Life, God, and Nature by Donald W. Underwood. Copyright©2013 by Abingdon Press. Used with Permission. This book publishes in September.

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