Be a good sport

“This garden used to have all different colors of irises, but they all turned purple.”

This complaint, or some like it, are made by people who have not kept a really close eye on their flowerbeds. It is a common belief that flowers can “turn” into a different color, but in the case of older, established flower beds, there is a better explanation.

The more vigorous irises simply crowd out the less robust growers and take over the flowerbed. To a gardener who doesn’t realize how irises travel as they grow, the slow progression isn’t noticeable.

A similar phenomenon happens with tea roses. A gardener might think her roses turned dark red after many years. What really happened is that she purchased hybrid roses, grown by taking a root of a particularly hardy dark rose named “Dr. Huey” and grafting another rose onto it. When hard frosts kill the rose down past the graft line, the root-stock sends up its “true” rose, which is a simple dark red rose on long canes.

Changes occasionally DO occur in the plant world, but they are rare. Horticulturists call it “throwing a sport.” A sport is a part of the plant that is noticeably different. It can happen on just one flower, or a whole stem, or even a branch of a tree.

It is often stress-induced, causing chromosomal mutations in the plant’s genetic structure. Most of the time the sport will simply die off. If a grower considers the sport to be valuable, she may propagate the sport until it is known if it will be healthy enough to survive as a new variety. Many hostas have been developed in this way, as well as roses, nectarines, and pears.

We too will undergo some changes in our lives.

Sometimes we change back to what we originally were, after becoming a Christian. This type of change is regression, like the rose root-stock instead of the fancy tea rose.

Other changes that might happen is that our best traits may be overcome by more common bad habits. Like the iris varieties that are stronger, old habits might not be bad by themselves, but we must not let the good overpower the best (Mark 4:18-20).

Sometimes we are changed for the better, like a plant that has been under duress and has thrown a sport. I had an iris that did that many years ago, and the coloration on one stem was completely reversed from the parent plant. I had intended to isolate it from the others so that I could nurture the new type until it was stronger, but I neglected to set it apart. The stronger part overcame the weaker, new part.

We must be careful to set ourselves apart from bad influences after we have been touched with the changing power of God. If we fail to do this, the stronger inclinations will take over and smother our new, better characteristics.

One might observe that a sport is an unnatural mutation, and therefore undesirable. Hosta hybridizers would disagree! Living a godly life actually doesn’t come naturally.

In the book of James we are told that the “wise and understanding” will be known by their good behavior (James 3:13). Then the contrasting so-called wisdom that comes naturally is described.

“This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic” (James 3:15, NASB).

Maybe we could use some change. Let’s be good sports!

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Christine (Tina) Berglund

Christine lives in middle Tennessee with her husband Gary, a.k.a. "The Yard Boy." They have served churches in eight states where Gary has preached full-time most of their married lives. The children have flown the nest, but they "baby" their plants now, and even get to visit grandchildren once in a while.

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