We had purchased the Kwanzan Ornamental Cherry tree for $5.00 at a plant auction. My husband Gary carefully planted it for me and even staked it against the unpredictable Tennessee winds. That little stick of a tree grew quickly, and bloomed beautifully for two years. Once it had become established, our attentions were naturally turned to some of the newer landscaping acquisitions in our still-bare yard.
One day many years later, a visitor noted that the rope was still attached to the stake. Very attached. In fact, it was strangling the young tree. Gary cut it off as much as possible, but by then it was imbedded into the trunk so deeply that it was impossible to remove. The poor tree was trying to absorb the very thing that had been hurting and strangling it.
We could not dig out that old piece of rope without seriously damaging the tree. We did the best we could, but feared that the chokehold of the remaining rope would kill the tree.
Sure enough, soon some branches began to grow below the strangle point, but they did not bear the fluffy pink flowers of its former glory. I started cutting most of those flowerless branches off. In the next two years, the little tree did not seem to grow, and the gorgeous billowy pink display became less profuse. The leaves were small and pale.
Not so on those drooping lower branches, the ones below the strangle point. They were large and green, but they bore no flowers.
Then a thought occurred to me, scary and hopeful all at once; What if we took out the whole top of the tree, and let the lower branches fill in? We took a few of the stunted original branches out that year. It was a sad, lopsided sight with scant blooms after this emergency surgery.
Finally, the last few top branches were removed, and the pitiful tree resembled a diseased branch pruned off a larger tree and set to stand upright. The middle was completely gone, and the remaining branches were of varying sizes and angles. They stuck out like arms beckoning for help. It was the ugliest thing in the yard!
Without the prior knowledge of how capable this tree was of yielding profuse, frilly, pink blossoms, I would have cut it down. Now, several years later, the tree has filled out completely. It does lean a little to the east, in a graceful bend toward the new patio.
It is gratifying to me that my faith in the little damaged tree bore fruit — or in this case, flowers.
In my teen years there was no one who took any interst in me, and I could not seem to please my family. Friends were scarce for a geeky teen in hand-me-down clothes. Someone told me about Jesus, who loved me enough to give his life for me. It made all the difference in the world! I could look in the mirror at my acne-pocked face, horn-rimmed glasses, and know I was worth something.
Today as I face meanness, rejection, and hurt, I have a God whose arms are awaiting the time that they can encircle me and hold me close forever.
My tree was hurt — almost irreparably. I can’t wait for it to wake up in springtime. The patio built around it will be a great vantage point to admire the restored tree.
“O God, restore us and cause your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved” (Psalm 80:3, NASB).