Have you ever seen a full-grown tree whose roots wriggle across a rock outcropping or wrap around a huge boulder?

In the Maine woods, one of the most fascinating phenomena is the tree that is rooted in or around or atop a rock. Often a boulder. Or a large outcropping of granite. The rock crust of our earth is close to the surface here and our landscape lives in accordance with its terrain.

Above-ground roots are as well protected by bark as the rest of the above-ground tree. That jumped out at me when I saw these white birch roots — every bit as “birch bark” as the tree above.

Rock-wrapping roots are still the tree’s anchors to earth. The rock itself is part of what the tree experiences as supportive earth. If you had a magic rock-dissolving elixer, the tree would teeter on its root tippytoes, with no adequate support for its core. If you tried to remove the rock with an earth mover, you’d sever the tree’s roots, creating a rock-free log, not a living tree. When a tree is full grown on top of a rock, the rock must remain as part of the tree’s life.

For those of us whose lives are full of rocky moments, the full lives of these trees are inspiring. They were born to difficulty and they have overcome difficulty. That means if God has designed you as a tree, you can grow to amazing heights rooted in a field of boulders.

Maybe it’s time to reconsider whether the parable of the sower is the best way to think about all our life struggles. The sower, you remember, lost much of his crop to rocky soil where the seed “sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root” (Matt. 13: 5-6).

The trees I found on top of Maine’s granite boulders are survivors. They have found ways to root, despite their inhospitable ground. And from them, I see that some rocks can even help keep us upright. Like these trees, perhaps we can “place our feet on the rock” of our own challenging lives– as well on as the Rock who supports us all — and find there a “firm place to stand.”