By: Carolyn Johnson, Director, Restored Marriage
We have had quite a vibrant hurricane season here in the US this past month. With all the major hurricanes that we've experienced, I began to notice something about the trees that survived. Something that can be applied to our situations as Covenant Keepers. Most of the surviving trees looked really beat up, but amazingly, they were still standing upright. In some cases, most of their leaves had been stripped away, but they were still alive. These trees bear a resemblance to what you might be experiencing right now in your life, if you are going through a divorce. I decided to do a little research on trees that survive hurricanes to see if the research parallels the resemblance. Here is what I found out.....
1. Well pruned trees survive hurricanes better than unpruned or poorly pruned trees. The pruning process is a painful process, but necessary in our Christian life if we are to survive the hurricane of divorce. We must allow Jesus to cut away the things that do not belong in our life. Unforgiveness, pride, perfectionism, and idolatry are some "dead branches" that might need to be pruned away in your life. John 15:2 (ESV) says, “He cuts off every branch of mine that does not produce fruit. He also trims every branch that produces fruit to prepare it to produce even more.
2. Trees in groups survive better than trees growing individually. This is one of the first things that you will learn when you come to us in this ministry. We believe that by joining a CK group, being a regular attender and having a teachable spirit you will learn the necessary biblical standards for standing for your marriage. You will survive better in a group than standing alone. You will have other "trees" standing around you that can protect you spiritually, until you are able to stand on your own. Then, you will be a strong, sturdy tree and will help others around you to do the same thing. Ecclesiastics 4:12 says, “And though one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” CK's grouped together find peace in the midst of the storm.
3. Pine trees may show no visible damage but may decline over time because of invisible damage. Pine trees are like our spouses. We have seen over and over that spouses may seem to be doing great on the outside, with their new lives, but we know from the prodigal spouses that have come back and told their stories to us, that their hearts were actually hurting because they were trying to forsake a covenant. You can rest in the biblical principle that hidden things will become evident over time. Luke 18:17 says, “For there is nothing hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come out into the open.” You, as the Covenant Keeper, need to do nothing except know that this principle exists. You don't need to expose, prune, strip, or tend to the pine tree, your spouse. Let the Lord do His work and just stand back and watch what He can and will do.
4. Have a comprehensive plan to care for your trees. We have all heard the saying by Benjamin Franklin, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Allow me to add something to this quote. It is vitally important to get your plan from the Lord. Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV) says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” God’s plan for your family is for everyone’s good (including the other person if they will only turn to the Lord.) Consult with the Master Planner first, above all things. His plan probably isn't the same plan you've made up in your head. Stick to His plan and do not revert back to your own when things get rough. Be diligent to carry His plan by focusing on what God wants to do in your life while you are standing. This is called obedience.
5. Know what kind of trees can survive a hurricane and use those species when planting your landscape. It is important to plant yourself around people who can survive a storm. People who are of like mind when it comes to divorce. It is very easy to find people who will tell you to move on with your life and forget about your covenant. If you plant yourself around people with restored marriages or with Covenant Keepers who have vast experience in perseverance, the possibility of seeing your marriage restored will increase.
6. Palms trees can lose all their fronds and still survive. Sometimes, to the world, it appears that we have lost all of our fronds, but we are still standing. This is a great testimony to the power of Jesus living in our lives. We may appear wind-blown and beaten up, but Jesus is living in a in big way in our lives. He is trustworthy. Our appearance is not the end of the story. Our trunk, our core, our Jesus, has the last say. I remember one time after our restoration, our daughter remarked, “We are doing good considering everything that has happened to our family.” What she was essentially saying was that from the outside appearance, we had lost all of our fronds, but our trunk was still intact. We survived the storm and God restored our family.
7. Unhealthy trees are predisposed to damage. In most cases when people show up on the steps of our Covenant Keepers ministry, they have been hurt and damaged by the ravages of separation and divorce. That is why we say CK is a healing and teaching ministry. It is quite difficult for people to learn anything new if they are hurting. First they need healing. We begin by encouraging everyone to concentrate on what the Lord is telling them to do, as opposed to asking the Lord to do something with their spouse. Once they have been healed, then their spirit is open to being taught what the Word of God says about marriage covenant. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” Hebrews 12:11-13 (ESV) Healing first and teaching second is our goal.
8. Trees with more rooting space survive better. I have learned a few gardening tips from my dear husband, Rex, who has developed quite an amazing green thumb over the years. To have a healthy plant, one that bears fruit, it needs enough space for the roots to spread out and to go deep in order to stabilize the plant and give it support. "But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NLT) We have found that if your roots are deep in the Word of God you never have to worry about surviving the heat of a divorce. The Word of God will be like water to your soul. It will refresh and sustain you as you go through the hardest part of the drought. As you immerse yourself in the Word, your roots will expand and grow deep, which will allow you to survive and withstand anything that comes your way.
9. Adequate soil depth, a deep water table, and no compaction help wind resistance. As Christians our spiritual soil depth is measured by the amount of God’s Word that we have put into our spirit. Once the Word is in our spirit we will speak this Word, and not our problem, to our situation. “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45 (ESV) Jesus is the One and Only deep water table. He is the well that never runs dry. When our heart becomes compacted (hardened) it is difficult to hear the voice of the Father telling us which road to follow.
You were created to withstand the winds and floods of the hurricane of divorce. Jesus is the answer to your survival and restoration. His way is the only way that will work long term. Be obedient to His Word and you will still be standing at the end of the storm.(Information for this article taken from: Wind and Tress: Lessons Learned from Hurricanes by Mary L. Duryea and Eliana Kampf. Published by School of Forest Resources and Conservation Department, University of Florida, June 2017)