Beginning Where You Are Planted
Ezekiel 17: 22-24 (NRSVA)
22 Thus says the Lord God:
I myself will take a sprig
from the lofty top of a cedar;
I will set it out.
I will break off a tender one
from the topmost of its young twigs;
I myself will plant it
on a high and lofty mountain.
23 On the mountain height of Israel
I will plant it,
in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit,
and become a noble cedar.
Under it every kind of bird will live;
in the shade of its branches will nest
winged creatures of every kind.
24 All the trees of the field shall know
that I am the Lord.
I bring low the high tree,
I make high the low tree;
I dry up the green tree
and make the dry tree flourish.
I the Lord have spoken;
I will accomplish it.
Given the green nature of today’s verses, it seems fitting to think about the leadership qualities of ‘green shoot’ Greta Thunberg. Thunberg has become famous for her environmental activism. Her youth, determination and commitment have provided a rallying point for hundreds of thousands of young activists.
One of the interesting things about Thunberg, and which echoes the imagery Ezekiel gives us, is that she began where she was planted. She started by convincing her own parents to adopt lifestyle changes which reduced their carbon footprint. From there she started spending her school days outside the Swedish parliament as a personal ‘school strike’ for climate action. This inspired others to copy her example and she was catapulted onto the world stage.
Her activism began in a dark place, in personal depression triggered by concern over the climate. She was eventually diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, OCD and selective mutism. Her neurodiversity is arguably part of what has enabled her to become the leader she is. Of her selective mutism she has said, ‘That basically means I only speak when I think it’s necessary. Now is one of those moments’
Her direct style and youth have made her a target as well as a leader. The ‘tall’ or ’dry’ trees of power don’t always appreciate the ‘low trees’ flourishing among them.
Part of her ability to stand up to those who resent her may stem from the ‘tall trees’ of her childhood, namely her parents, being willing to make sacrifices to accommodate her convictions, which helped nurture the belief that she can make a difference.
Perhaps, for the flourishing of the kingdom of God, as pictured by Ezekiel, more of us need to be willing to step down, and support our diverse young Davids and Gretas as they grow.
God of mountain heights and green shoots
Help us to bow down.
Bow down in wonder and in awe at the image your prophets give us of new life, of hope, of a future.
Help us to see that image in the young people whom you, even now, are nurturing.
Where we are the ones blocking the light, too proud of our own height and reach to stand aside, teach us to submit to your pruning, that your kingdom might flourish,