The Understory

The Understory

by: carole l. haines

As I was assisting in the 3’s class in the childcare center where I work, I listened intently as the teacher spoke of the Rainforest layers. I was intrigued by the names of each layer of the Rainforest. The Canopy is the uppermost layer where all the trees grow tall and form an umbrella or canopy like layer over the rest of the rainforest. Most living things live in this layer. The second layer is known as The Understory, and this layer receives very little light, so the leaves of the plants in this place are wider in order to absorb as much sunlight as possible as it filters down. Most plants at this level are stunted and grow no taller than 12 feet high. They are sometimes all tangled up in each other from reaching out further and further looking for more light. The Forest floor is the final layer and this is sparsely vegetated. This the place where everything that dies above, drops to the ground and decays; providing much needed nutrients to the rest of the Rainforests inhabitants.


Now I tell you all this, because I was so struck by how similar we are to the Rainforest layers. Most people only see our Canopies, our outermost layers, where most of the activity of our lives happen. But we all have Understories, deeper layers where some things are tangled up,and we are reaching out, seeking light for those dark places of pain and confusion. And each of us has a forest floor, where the things God is calling us to die to, fall to the ground and decay into nutrients for the rest of our lives. I believe this is part of why Jesus speaks to us and says,

John 12:24-25

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.


So tread gently, dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Tread kindly as we may not know the Understories of other people’s lives. Do not be too quick to judge or think you know the “Why?” to other people’s lives. Only God knows the reasons why we are where we are, or how to set us free at this level. He will choose the things that need to die and drop to the lower levels where He can break them down and use them to bring Glory to Himself. He “prunes” our branches so we may bear more fruit. (John 15) I have found that He is using those weak places, those things that I thought no one should be allowed to see, My faults, failures, mistakes and wounds. He is the Master of my Understory. He is the Master of yours, so trust Him to do His work in those deeper places in your life.

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