I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring to my part of the country. It’s always slow breaking through, but each year it feels just a little longer. We’ve had a series of warmer days so things are once again showing sings of life. That brought me a little bit of joy this morning because I walked by my trees and found that they were all still alive.
That may not seem like such a great accomplishment to some of you, but hang in there and I’ll tell you my very own parable of the trees.
My family moved into our current home about six years ago. It is situated so that it is the first house you see and drive by when you turn on our road. I’m a big fan of beauty and growing things, so I wanted some of that beauty up near the road. I envisioned turning the corner to my house and being greeted by gorgeous flowering trees. I started shopping around to figure out what I wanted, then in the early spring placed my order with a well-known gardening company.
I picked a flowering butterfly bush: it said it would grow rather tall, and it had a variety of colors that were supposed to bloom for an extended period of time. Perfect. Well, sort of.
The day my three bushes arrived, the postman rang the doorbell and handed me a package no bigger than a bread box. Inside I found three scrawny little twigs that were supposed to be planted and turned into something lovely. Now would be a good time to mention I’m not very good with growing things. I’m like the kid that strangles the kitten trying to give it a hug. I mean well, but…
Still, I dutifully planted my twigs and did my best to help them grow. Nothing. Not a one of them ever sprouted anything even resembling green and growing.
The next year I got smarter and poorer. I went to the nursery and picked out three bushes that were all I could afford. They were about eight inches high this time, but at least they were actually alive. They were planted and I did my best to help them grow, you know the drill. That lasted about a month. We had a particularly long rainy stretch that the grass grew in, but didn’t get cut. When everything dried out, my husband mowed the grass – and mowed right over my bushes because he’d forgotten they were there.
I tried again the next year. That year the plants were about twelve inches tall. That year a well-meaning neighbor got his hands on one of those huge industrial lawnmowers. He mowed everybody’s lawns, including my bushes.
You’d think I’d give up wouldn’t you? From the moment of the second mowing incident I began saving my money to get some real trees the next spring. I bought three trees that were about four feet tall and covered with sweet-smelling pink blossoms. They bloomed all spring and summer and it was a special treat to drive around the corner to my home. Winter came and the trees got confused. They never stopped blooming until it had been snowing for two months. It took everything out of them. When the next spring and summer came they refused to ever bloom, or actually grow, again.
I got really desperate and planted three fruit trees. They didn’t have flowers that year, but at least they lived. Then winter came and I held my breath. Now spring is creeping in and my trees are still alive! Can you see now, why I consider this a small miracle?
After the first couple of years, my husband asked me why I kept trying. I told him it was a matter of faith and endurance. I knew what result I wanted, I knew what I needed to do to make it happen, and I had to believe that someday I’d actually achieve my goal.
That brings me to the point of my little parable. I’ve been doing my best with what I have. I knew the pattern for achieving my goal, but I also knew I wasn’t very good at what I wanted to accomplish. I knew it might take me longer to accomplish than someone else, but it felt worth it. I think the life of a disciple is much the same.
We have a beautiful vision of what we’d like to become, we see the example of our Savior Jesus Christ and want to place that example as the first thing we see in our lives as well. He has promised that is possible. He has given us the guidelines and plans that will make it possible, but He never promised everything would be flowers and springtime all the time if we followed those plans. He asks us to do the things He did and endure to the end, only then will some blessing ever be realized. Often the greatest rewards are the ones that are the most difficult to reach. We have to decide that as disciples of Jesus Christ the process is worth it, no matter how long it takes.
Is there an area in your life where you’ve planted trees with very little reward for your efforts? Is the end result worth it, no matter how long it takes? The Lord’s promises and blessings always are.