For many, this past year has just been one long winter. As our country begins to raise its head out of the fog of the last year, this piece I wrote several years ago seemed appropriate. It is so good to breathe fresh air and see signs of life.
Several years ago I was tree shopping when I saw the most beautiful tree bulging out of its temporary home. Even at half price, it was still a rather large investment. I was told that moving it may shock its system and it may be a while before we saw any fruit. I was remembering the luscious guava tree in Hawaii – It was fragrant, had a ton of fruit on it, and was delicious. We planted our tree and nurtured it with tender loving care and eager expectations.
The excitement grandma and I felt when we saw the first signs of growth made us almost giddy. Every day we would check on the blooms and eagerly wait for the little bulbs that would become the fruit. It was kind of mysterious, because we did not know how big the fruit would be or how long it would take to ripen. Before I knew it, I had more guavas than I knew what to do with. I ate, peeled, cooked, made guava butter and shared it with the neighbors, co-workers, strangers even!
There were only about two-dozen guavas left on the tree. I had heard the weather report, considered what to do… Should I cover the tree – I could not reach the top, Should I put a heater outside? – that might cause a fire. Well it is close enough to the house – the heat from the house should keep it from freezing, yeah it should be fine. Unfortunately, for once, the weather man was right; it got downright cold. To my disappointment, I woke up checked on my prize tree only to find it black and almost crispy from the freeze. I held out hope for a few weeks that it was only temporary and that it would turn lush and green again.
The weeks went by, the tree got drier, crispier, and sadder than a dog deprived of playing ball. I watched as the tree became fragile and thought I might need to cut the brittle branches off. However, the leaves would not fall off for anything. They stuck so tightly to the tree that no amount of wind would dislodge them. As contemplated the tree for any signs of life, a hummingbird started dive bombing me. I did not know what was agitating the little fighter pilot so badly that it would want to take on something my size until I observed from a different perspective. The leaves that held so tightly to the tree provided just the protection she needed to build a home. She was shielding her two little potential lives. No mater how the wind blew, that nest stayed strong and sturdy. My decision was made, I could not cut down the old branches, she needed them.
I watered and cared for the tree every time I thought of it… low and behold there were little tiny buds coming from the trunk of the tree. I was elated, then disappointed, for the buds shriveled up and disappeared.
I was holding out hope, though. The tree had strong roots. It was somewhat mature when we planted it. We watered it, gave it vitamin B, talked to it even. I did not get too excited when new growth started up from the roots though. I did not want to be disappointed again. I watered and check on it regularly to see if the signs of life were really there.
Soon the little shoots coming up from the roots were three feet high. They didn’t bear fruit that season. It took time for the damaged tree to once again become strong, develop, provide shade for the kitty, and homes for the hummingbirds. Since then, the tree has come back in full force, produced several seasons of fruit, and has even withstood a few freezes.
About 2000 years ago, God was looking down on his creation and saw the most beautiful tree. He knew it would be the ultimate investment, and He made it knowing how much pain it would cause. That tree was the cross and the investment was his son’s life.
He made the investment for me, gave me salvation and life, gave me a family to nurture me, provided his word as a source of health, and protected me from the ravages of this world. Early on, He saw the buds of fruit in my life and took special care to cultivate me as a kind of “first fruit.” I loved to serve, share my love for Jesus with friends, family, neighbors, and even strangers! As Luke 6:44 tells us, we will be recognized by our fruit.
As a young tree, I produced a decent amount of fruit. I was tended to, given direction; my roots were well watered. As a more mature tree, after many seasons of bearing fruit, I had a big freeze. The life and enthusiasm for serving drained out of me like the color from the guava tree. I still had a purpose, just like the withered branches of the guava tree. I just had to see my life from a different perspective.
Deep in my roots, in my soul, there was life. This tree that was bought with a price was firmly planted; its roots were alive waiting for the next season. Psalms 1:3 says He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
There are signs of life again. My dead branches are protecting the new growth, shielding from strong winds, and a burning sun, and serving as a reminder of how the Lord has restored me. I may not have a bumper crop this season. Maybe it is my time to grow and become strong again. I do look forward to the next crop of fruit however, and of this I am sure. As it says in John 10:10; Jesus did not come only to give life; He came to give it more abundantly.