Faith · Life

Blatherings about Birches and Flexibility

I drove into town this morning for a Bible study but the church was locked up. I felt a little irritated. No one had let me know that it was cancelled. Or postponed. Or whatever happened. Although I had only attended once before, I felt like someone should have told me.


I expected them to be flexible with me in my sporadic attendance, and yet I was not being flexible with them.

In my heart, I mean. This was all taking place at a heart level. I wasn’t really that upset. I was being stretched.

Bud and I used to get a little irritated at the Christian-ese expression of “being stretched.” When someone was undergoing a trial, the “Christian” response included glib statements like, “I guess the Lord is stretching you” or “me” or “him” or “her” or whoever.

I guess I’m growing up. And growing more flexible.

But there’s still so much more room for improvement. Will I ever reach a day when I’m not irritated by a small inconvenience?

My father planted white birch trees along the north border of his lawn.

Over the years, some have grown quite tall. One bends quite low these days, showing the resiliency and flexibility that is its nature. My father comments on it every time he looks out the window.


Robert Frost says the birch is “the only native tree that dares to lean” — and lean it does. Its pliancy and resiliency are remarkable.

I’ve been going for long walks lately, and I feel the tightness in my legs. Yesterday I told myself that I need to start stretching again. As a coach, I’m aware of the different types of fitness: muscle strength, muscle endurance, cardio endurance, and flexibility. Flexibility takes the longest to gain, but it also is the slowest to lose.

In our muscles. In our lives.


My friend, Alyssa, wrote about aspens, their frailty, their humility, the way their leaves tremble in community. I remember the day I first read that post. I wept because my brother’s death was still fresh and painful, and I knew she was telling me of a community weeping with me.

This morning I looked at the birch and knew that it had lessons for me, too.

To bend and not to break.

To keep working to develop that flexibility that will stay with me for a long time. The more I exercise it, the more flexible I will become.

I found myself grateful for a missed Bible study.


8 thoughts on “Blatherings about Birches and Flexibility

  1. Birch trees have always fascinated me. In a way I can’t really explain. I always make my kids stop when we see them so i can get pictures, lol. Birch are on the rare side here. Was glad to read this today 😊

  2. The Lord is stretching you- that’s an expression I haven’t heard.

    Birch trees here tend to do that. There was a bad ice storm here in 1998, and you can still see its mark in those kind of trees. They do live on.

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