I walked along my favorite trail recently. It’s built where a railroad track used to be: a long, straight, flat stretch, including a couple old bridges, a tunnel, and…lots of trees. The trees vary in type and age. I don’t know much about trees, so I can’t give you many details except to say I love the way they make the path feel secluded (when it actually runs alongside a major road).

As my feet shuffled the colorful leaves littering the path, I looked above at one of my favorite qualities of the trail: the canopy of trees. The trees on either side of the trail grow toward the sky and then – well above my head and reach – begin to lean and then reach toward the middle. Each side reaches for another. The branching limbs reaching across the trail and intertwining with others reaching from the other side look like arms and hands. And I think…

We’re a lot like these trees.

We reach for relationships. Sure, some of us reach faster and more assertively than others. Sometimes we’re bold; sometimes we’re shy. But we want to connect in some way. We’re created for relationships.

So we reach and connect… We entwine ourselves with others, which prompt us to bend in unexpected ways. The winds blow, and we get bumped and scratched. We don’t grow well in some positions because we lack the nourishment we need.

Reaching and connecting might not look or feel great in particular situations. But take a step back to see the bigger picture. It’s not just about me, you, us. It’s about community.

The trees reach into an archway, beautiful to see and helpful for protection. The reaching branches create a trail for some animals and insects and a home for others.  The curves of the branches create runways for water and windows of sunlight for smaller plants beneath and among the trees.

You’re going to live in community with others. Take a step back to see the bigger picture. Are your relationships…

  • a (beautiful) example for those around you?
  • (healthy) protection for others?
  • a path for others as they grow?
  • a place where people feel they belong?
  • nourishing for those all around you?

Sometimes my relationships feel more like the uncomfortable bending, bumping, scratching, lacking nourishment kind. How about yours? Take a step back with me.

We’re part of a community, and we won’t see much of the impact our relationships have on others. As we reach for relationships, we entwine in such intricate ways that we don’t see the costs and benefits of every aspect of our reaching. One thing is certain: our relationships don’t just impact us personally.

Keep reaching. Relationships are difficult, but connecting with others is worth the reach.

I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal, but I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. Christ wants me to do that, which is the reason he made me his. Philippians 3:12

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