Of Tree Roots and Bird Wings

The following is the text of a reflection I gave this evening during Encounter, which is Eucharistic Adoration combined with praise and worship music. The focus of the evening (and of the talk) is our Life Teen youth group, but I think the message pertains to us “old folks” as well. Enjoy!

I’ve been playing with the lyrics to a new song I’m writing (tentatively titled Wings to Fly). The inspiration of the song came from a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago with Greg Barker, our Youth Minister. He and I were talking about changes in life and how some of our teens are going through one of the biggest changes they’ve ever experienced. Some of them are leaving home and family to attend college for the first time. It’s both an exciting and anxious time for teens and their parents. I know it can also be an anxious time for siblings and friends who remain behind.

Each of you is going through some major changes in your lives as well – changes with school, with sports, with work, and with relationships. Greg and I talked about equipping our teens spiritually for these changes. As we talked, two pictures stuck out in my mind; one was a picture of the roots of a tree, the other a picture of the wings of a bird.

We talked about our jobs as parents and ministers to help our teens be rooted in their faith, to help them grow deep and strong roots so they can withstand the challenges that lie before them in life. Scripture tells us that a strong root system can allow a tree to withstand difficulty and still bear fruit.  Here is what the prophet Jeremiah says:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes,
its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit. (Jer 17:7-8)

Roots that are well cared for will help us bear much fruit – even in difficult times of change. Tonight you are following the advice of Jeremiah – you are staying close to the greatest source of strength for our spiritual roots – Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. And that’s awesome. Enjoy this special time with Jesus. I encourage you to keep coming back. The Adoration Chapel is open 24/7 and Jesus is just waiting for you to stop by for a visit.

The other visual of the wings of a bird has to do with stretching ourselves and exploring new things in our lives. I have to tell you: It hurts our hearts as parents to think that our baby birds are stretching their wings to fly away from the loving nest we have built for you. But our job as parents (and ministers) is to help fit you with strong wings to allow you to fly to new heights. That’s where the refrain of the song I am writing comes in:

Give me wings to fly, so I can rise above this. Help me touch the sky, and find a better way. Come and lift me up; raise me even higher than I’ve ever known, than I’ve ever known. Give me wings to fly!

I encourage you, as you pray before the Blessed Sacrament this evening, to think about the spiritual roots in your lives. Greg, Carrie and the Core Team do an excellent job helping you prepare for your spiritual journey. Think about the lessons and good examples your parents and youth ministers have shared with you to build those strong roots. Trust that the Lord will help lead you through any difficulties you may be experiencing in this time of transition.

Think also about the new heights in your life that God is calling you to. Change can be a good thing; it can mean progress. Perhaps God is using this time in your life to call you to a new level of trust and intimacy with Him. Perhaps he is calling  you to a new way of service, answering a call to a vocation, or improving an area of your life where you don’t always live and love like Jesus. Trust in the Lord and have hope.

Ask God to remove any burdens that may be weighing heavy on your heart. Ask God to give you spiritual wings to rise to the heights He wants for you. Find your way and fly high, trusting and hoping in the Lord. And above all else, remember that you are loved!

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