The Coast Redwoods of Northern California are the tallest trees in the world. Many measure more than 20-feet across at their base and over 360 feet from top to bottom. This is nearly as tall as a 40-story building. The tallest known Coast Redwood, the “Hyperion,” located in the back country of Redwood National Park, was measured at 379.1 feet tall in 2006.
Coast Redwoods are so tall, in fact, that the biggest of these trees have difficulty getting water and nutrients all the way to the uppermost branches. This is why an observer will see many of the tallest Redwoods crowned with dead, gray, barren tops devoid of branches and foliage. They are simply too high to receive nourishment from lower portions of the tree. Therefore, in order to survive at the top, the uppermost trunk and branches must draw in moisture from the Pacific coastal mists via osmosis. The very tops of these trees must ultimately reach outside themselves for the water and nutrients they need to survive.
“It’s lonely at the top,” the adage tells us. Indeed, those in leadership may experience feelings of isolation, abandonment, and loneliness capable of killing the soul. Just as there are so many “dead tops” among the tallest Redwoods, so also there are many casualties among leaders. Although at lower levels, one can enjoy moral support from friends and peers, higher up the ladder the leader may find that it is frequently necessary to “stand alone,” without that moral support of those we could depend on before.
But how is it possible to survive in such painful isolation? We can survive by reaching outside ourselves to the inexhaustible supply of God’s Spirit. God can bring healing to our wounded souls, bind up our broken hearts, and nurture our starving spirits. With the strength that God gives, it is possible to survive and to thrive at the lonely top. The Scripture reminds us, “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
Dear Father in heaven, restore, heal, and strengthen my wounded soul. Nurture and feed my starving spirit. Empower me, by your Spirit to carry the cross you have called me to bear. Amen.