Last night I met with a small group of women to talk about growing deeper in God. As I left our meeting, I was filled with a sense of wonder at how God had been among us, wooing us to him, giving us a new vision of his amazing love.
And as I was thanking God for this group of women who want to grow closer to God together, I was reminded of a story from a few years ago when Bryan and I were planting a cedar tree that we'd gotten for Christmas. I was reminded that I grow best when I'm planted.
It happened like this:
Bryan’s brows furrowed as he glared at me from over the top of the shovel’s handle. “Marlo, you’ve got to decide!”
I balled up the pair of gardening gloves in my hand and stared at the five-foot tall cedar tree drooping in the pot before me. “I just don’t know.”
Bryan jabbed his finger toward two places in the yard. “There, or there. Pick one.”
“Neither place is perfect, though.” One spot just seemed a little too close to the walkway, the other too far from the picture window. Either would be okay, but still . . .
Bryan sighed and closed his eyes. His jaw tensed. “If we don’t plant it, it’s going to die. The tips of the branches are already turning brown. So,” his eyes opened again and bored into me, “do you want it here, or over there?”
The shovel clanked on the ground. “I’m getting a glass of lemonade. I’ll be back when you decide.”
I threw him a small smile and nodded. A few feet away, last year’s tree, a beautiful green Sequoia, flourished in the rich soil. No brown patches there. And no pot either. But the cedar was another story. We’d bought it way back at Christmastime, and there it had sat, waiting to be planted. Only a couple feet separated it from the Sequoia. It got the same water, the same sunlight. But it wasn’t enough. The difference was obvious. One tree was green and growing. The other limp and tinged with brown. Bryan was right. I had to stop looking for perfect and get that poor tree in the ground.
Slowly, I slipped on my gloves, picked up the shovel, and walked over to the spot a little too close to the walkway. As I pressed the shovel’s tip into the ground, I heard Bryan’s voice behind me. “Finally!”
I glanced back and saw him grinning. He reached for the shovel. “Here, give me that. You can have the lemonade.”
I took the glass and settled into a lawn chair while Bryan dug the hole deeper. As I sat there, something about the scene tickled my memory. Then it came to me. The tree planting process was very much like the weeks of church shopping we had done when we first moved to our new home. Then, too, I had struggled to decide where to go when no church seemed perfect. At the time, I thought it was easier to try this congregation for a week or two, then that one, then another, without having to put down roots anywhere. After all, I was getting weekly sunshine and water. Who needed to commit? But just like the potted cedar, after a while my edges started to turn brown. It wasn’t until we put down roots in a church that I really started to grow.
Romans 12:10 (NIV) says to “be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” Devoted, committed. Not here today, gone tomorrow. Not sitting in a pot, poised to move quickly from one place to the next. Instead, God calls me to be planted firmly in the place He has for me, so I can truly care for those around me, and they can care for me.
Within a week of being planted, our cedar tree began growing taller and putting out new green needles. Today, it serves as a reminder to me of the power of commitment to a certain “patch of ground” – to my particular church family. It reminds me that my spot doesn’t need to be perfect for me to flourish. I need sunshine and water, but I also need a solid piece of ground.