I’m a huge fan of being around water. While I was living in Sydney, I would frequently go for walks along the various bays around Sydney Harbor. It was a great time of reflection and peace for me. I was amazed by how much I was able to learn about myself through simply paying attention to nature.

I remember one day in particular. I had taken a bus to a suburb west of the CBD in Sydney. There was a great path to walk alongside the water line as it washed ashore. A few minutes into my walk, I happened upon something that would have otherwise seemed a normal part of nature; however, that day it was much more than just another part of nature for me.

It was a tiny shoot of a tree that was poking through the surface of the water. It wasn’t more than a couple of inches above the water line and just had two leaves at the top of it pointing opposite one another. As the tiny waves would come to shore, the little sapling would be forced to bend under the force of the waves. It would have to give way to their strength, but its flexibility allowed it to do so and also return upright once the waves had subsided.

For a reason I can’t explain, other than purposefully being in a reflective state of mind, that little sapling spoke to me. The more I contemplated about that simple cycle of events, the more personal it became. The tiny sapling would be forced to bend under the weight of the water trying to wash over it and once the water had subsided a bit, it returned to its normal position.

I realized that we are no different than that little sapling, in many regards. Our problems are much like the water that was pushing against that sapling. They have a tendency to come in waves and it seems they force us to bend and contort ourselves to adapt to the pressures we feel from those problems. Then they subside and we return to where we were before the problem was present in our lives. We may look the same on the outside, but a small change has taken place within us; we have become a little bit stronger.

Each time a new problem comes into our lives and forces us to change position, momentarily, we are strengthened in some capacity or another. The thing I found most interesting about this little sapling was that the very thing that pushed against it, the water, was also responsible for giving it life. Without water, the sapling would have died. The nature of the water is to ebb and flow and it also happens to give life. Our problems are no different. It is the nature of problems to ebb and flow in and out of our lives, but they also give life in the sense of allowing us to learn and gain experience. What is life but a series of experiences and stages of growth through learning (physical, emotional, and spiritual)?

Another thing that struck me as incredible was that the little sapling had not struggled with who it was as a tree simply because the waves caused it to change position and be pushed around a bit. What a great lesson for us! It’s so common that when problems come into our lives, we have a tendency to develop a victim mentality and think there is something wrong with us. Perhaps we believe we deserve the problems. Do you think that little sapling deserved the waves? It had nothing to do with the tree; it was the nature of the water that brought the waves.

Sometimes we create problems for ourselves through our decisions, but other times problems are just the nature of life. It has nothing to do with us, it just affects us. Don’t let the existence of problems allow you to drift into the mentality of believing your value and worth are directly proportional to the frequency of problems in your life.

We are strengthened by problems and challenges. The more flexible we are, the easier it will be for us to be able to return to our original position when the waves of problems in our lives subside. When we return to upright, we are strengthened and somehow nourished to continue in our lives. As you experience the waves of life, remember the lesson we can learn from a sapling. There is no written rule that life has to be taken too seriously in order to be responsible. Enjoy your life…we only get one.