"Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance," Romans 5:3
I know nothing about plants. Having procrastinated for months after a warning from our gardener, I finally called the arborist. Something about beetles and trees, apparently we needed to act quickly.
He showed up the next morning and I learned more than I did in the entire high school botany course that I wanted to sleep through. The news was fascinating and tragic.
We have probably ten cypress trees on our property. They grow quickly, creating instantaneous, natural privacy. But then you stop watering them. A cypress will work with the nutrients it has, thereby offering you control of it’s maturation. Ideal really, feed and water the heck out of it and then keep it the size you want. Had we been the original owners, I’m sure we would have done the same. The trees are our favorite part of the property. We’ve got postage stamp lawns and close neighbors, so the lush shade keeps the environment quiet and serene.
The arborist presented a two-edged sword. You can only starve a tree for so long. Stunted growth leads to a weakened defense, making it susceptible to bugs and disease. However, if we nourish the soil and give it what it wants, we’ll have healthy trees and a problem that’s outgrown our purpose.
The worst of them is oozing sickly yellow sap everywhere. It’s called weeping. Later that day, I wept too. This cypress was manipulated and used. Planted in a place for the convenience of another, but not for the life and beauty it’s meant to display. An evergreen only accepted as long as it doesn’t take too much and offers everything in return. Fulfilling obligations instead of thriving. Parched with thirst it has waited on others to allow it to grow.
A metaphor for a life managed by rejection and fear.
The grief before me calls my imagination to a path of confident healing. Like a tree, the Psalmist says.
What if the Cypress started drinking living water on it’s own, recovering, mending, growing into a magnificent trophy of a Creator’s rescue? Severing its dependence on the plans and desires of man? Those who used its weakness for their own comfort would be threatened. The foundations of their carefully constructed home disturbed, while dignity and strength bloomed in the front yard, and they watched their efforts to deadened, stunt, weaken, and discourage become thwarted at every turn. Boundaries of disdain overgrown by boughs of fragrant, living wonder. They didn’t know that a Cypress is a symbol for endurance. And if they bring their axe, her fallen boards will become holy ground for the temple, dressed in pure gold, a place of safe haven for those in a flood, a canopy over trysting lovers, sharpened spears for the defense of God’s chosen people, or instruments played in worship. The Cypress is showing me that when definition and purpose comes from the Lord, whether in life or death, you will always be fashioned for His splendor in glory to the shame of your enemies.
It was an ancient Jewish custom in Bethel to plant a cedar for the birth of a boy, or a cypress for a girl. I want to heal the broken tree in my front yard, as an Ebenezer of hope that God heals our broken hearts. I want it to thrive and grow as long as I possibly can before it ruins a water line. Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
“Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” Isaiah 55:13