Monday, September 29, 2008

The Tree That Almost Died

The Tree That Almost Died

Wesley G. Vaughn, © 2008

As published in The Outreacher <>

(in print, but not online)

One morning in mid-April, I got up to find that it was 29°F, and had been all night long. In Ohio, frost and freezing nights can be expected halfway through Spring, and this year was no exception. Since I had not worked the evening before, it was easy to forget about the potted plants outside. Coming home at 12:30 am, I would have seen them and brought them into the garage.

Alarmed, I went out to check the plants. To my dismay, the leaves on the grapefruit tree were curled with the frost. I didn’t know how badly it had been injured, but it looked bad. This tree was special. I had planted a seed from a grapefruit we ate, and it sprouted and grew. It was eight years old but not too big since it was a potted plant. We had brought it from Virginia to Ohio. It seemed such a shame to come this far only to freeze. With a sliver of hope, I took it into the garage and set it down far from the door.

Over the next few weeks, I checked the grapefruit tree almost every day. A few at a time, leaves dried up, beginning at the tip. It was apparent that all would go. But in the second week I saw what looked like a few, very few, new leaves emerging. A month later, all but a few of the frosted leaves had died, and these few were dying. Not wanting to damage the tree needlessly, I waited until a leaf was obviously dead before removing it.

Shortly after Memorial Day I pruned off dead wood. By then several sprouts were showing. Before the end of June, new branches grew from the lower trunk. These have now grown straight up like parallel trunks. The whole tree is lush with glossy dark green leaves. Of course, spines are growing too. The tree that almost died has not only made full recovery, but looks better than it had for a long time. The freeze which almost killed the tree stimulated new growth which gives it a greater glory.

In Psalm 51:8, David says, “Let the bones that You have broken rejoice.” [NASB] David referred to a shepherd breaking a leg bone on a lamb which kept wandering away. The shepherd
then carried this lamb every time he moved the flock. The lamb became dependent on and bonded to the shepherd. By the time the leg healed, the lamb always stayed close.

David was chastised for his sin. Job was blameless, yet God still let him suffer severe affliction. Though Job did not understand why, his faithfulness through this suffering brought glory to God. It also revealed Job’s real character to a scrutinizing world.

The apostle Paul says that God causes all things to work together for good for His children (Romans 8:28). He goes on to say what this good is: believers being fashioned into the image of Christ (verse 29). Since God is all sovereign and all powerful, nothing can happen to us unless and until He allows it. This is for His glory, and for our greater good.

Leaving the grapefruit tree out on a freezing night was unintentional. The good results were accidental. But God’s letting us go through suffering and loss is not accidental. It is intentional, and for the best intentions. Like the sheep whose leg was broken, it draws us closer to Him. And like frost that almost killed the tree, it stimulates new growth we would have never otherwise experienced.

Scripture references –Psalm 31:12; 34:18; 38:8; 44:19; 51:8, 17; 61:1; 69:20; 147:3; Romans 8:28-29

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