by Caryl Moll
We have a beautiful, 30-year-old White Stinkwood tree in our garden. It’s very tall now, and its branches stretch out in lavish celebration of the role it plays in our lives. Not only does it provide shade, but it is home to a myriad of visiting birds, including a pair of nesting Starlings. In the summer time, Rameron pigeons leisurely scout its upper branches for seasonal berries. Some nights, I wonder out into the garden with a torch to take in the beauty of this tree and also to spot the variety of birds that seek shelter in its branches. I love our tree.
Our tree has been through a lot over the years, including a re-planting when it was very young (to make space for our swimming pool). Since then, it has survived many seasons and many storms. About five years ago, it fell victim to one of Johannesburg’s notorious and furious thunderstorms. As the storm raged, we heard a mighty “C-RACK!” coming from the garden. It left us all shivering. When things had finally settled down, we ventured out to see what had happened. What a sight!
Half of our tree was lying across the boundary wall. Effectively, the tree had been split in half by the storm and its large stem and branches had rearranged my neighbour’s garden and driveway. I couldn’t believe how big it was and the damage its mass had caused. We had to call in tree fellers to clear up the mess. It took a few truck loads.
But what were we to do with the remaining half of the tree? It looked fairly secure. In the end we decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and left it to heal…
Today, our tree occupies centre stage in our garden. It’s a wonderful specimen and continues to bless us with vibrancy and interesting occupants.
A couple of days ago I ventured out to spend some time in its shade. It has grown so big again. Really flourishing! I decided to give it a ‘hug’ to see how wide its girth had grown, but it’s now too big for my arms to fit around. Instead, I got to study it from all angles. And this led me to an incredible discovery…
Although the tree has healed up nicely, its scar is still very evident. But I also discovered a long, steel rod trapped inside its base. (My gardener must have left it there at some stage over the past five years.) To my amazement, the tree has made a plan to deal with the rod. … It has literally embraced the rod and grown its stem around it. The tree’s silent strength is evident in the fact that the rod is now bent at an amazing angle. It has literally crushed it into place and there’s no way to detach it. I can’t believe how a STEEL rod can be bent by the slow growth of one of God’s incredible life forms…our tree! How had I missed this marvel?
So today, I think that our tree has a lesson for us all. So often we can be hindered in our goals by what we consider to be a ‘thorn in our own flesh”. We forget that it is possible to flourish even with these “thorns of life”. We can even embrace our ‘thorns’ and live abundantly. Even the Bible reminds us of this fact. In 1 Corinthians 12:8-9, Paul enlightens us:
“… I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
We can all try to remember that, no matter what we are going through, or facing in our lives, that GOD’s grace is sufficient for us. Indeed, it is made perfect in weakness.
If our tree can embrace its own ‘thorn in its flesh’, I am sure we can too.
With love, in Christ