Lessons from a Ficus Tree

I thought I’d take a moment and share another update from my mother’s garden. As I have previously mentioned, the daffodils are in decline, but the petunias are faring just fine! Given this state of affairs, I thought I would turn my attention away from the flowers and toward one of the trees.

You see, many years ago, a family friend gave me a clipping for a ficus tree. Understand that I have no green thumb whatsoever, and I didn’t know what to do with the thing. The friend gave it to me in a small little planter, and I watered it whenever the thought crossed my mind (usually once every six or seven days).

I live in apartment complex, and so there really was never much hope for the ficus clipping. I kept it out on my (covered) balcony, and dutifully watered it as often as I thought about it. After some time, I noticed that the ficus was starting to falter and wilt, and that it really hadn’t grown very much.

I shared this update with my mother all those years ago, and she was horrified. She told me that if I wasn’t going to treat the ficus properly, then I should give it to her (apparently, one is supposed to replant the ficus into a larger container with fresh soil, and even go so far as to talk to talk to the thing from time to time. Who knew?).

I gladly relinquished the ficus her custody. That was about seven years ago. Here is what that little ficus clipping looks like today:

The ficus is a tree. I never realized it at the time, but the thing has grown to a towering height, and continues to thrive under my mother’s protective care. When I look at the ficus, I still can’t believe that all of that tree came out of a little clipping that someone gave me several years ago.

Anyway, fast forward to today. If you notice, the tree has now turned into a home for a bird. It’s difficult to see at first, but if you focus your gaze toward the upper middle section of the photo, you’ll notice an possibly small bird nest there. It’s easy to miss at first glance, but it’s definitely there.

When I stopped by earlier today, I noticed the nest, but I didn’t see any birds actually in it. Regardless, it’s clear to me that the ficus tree is now somebody’s home. I didn’t know that all those years ago, when I let the clipping languish on my apartment balcony – but God knew it, and had a purpose for my not-yet-developed ficus tree.

I am amazed at the tender thoughtfulness of God. He took what I thought was rubbish, and turned it into a beautiful tree and future home for a little bird family.

Upon reflection, the following questions came to my mind:

  • What (and whete) are the spiritual ficus trees in my life?
  • What are the things that appear to be stagnating in their growth, and are not developing in the way that I expected?

Just like my real ficus clipping, I must also reflect what I may have done – or not done – to contribute to the situation. After all, my ficus only developed into a tree when it became painfully clear that I was not able to care it properly (mostly out of ignorance and inattention, and not malice). I wonder if others can relate to this perspective.

In the right hands, the tree developed and flourished. Perhaps there are things in your life that God is asking you release, so that He – or someone else, perhaps – is able to transform those apparently dead-end situations right before your eyes. Just like my ficus tree, I can clearly see what God has done, but only in retrospect; I am now able to enjoy His handiwork, but only after I released control and responsibility over the ficus clipping.

While under my care, I only saw the ficus as a small inconvenience to be attended to from time to time. However, in my mother’s capable hands, she understood that the ficus simply lacked the resources and TLC it needed to develop into the tree was designed to be. She simply provided those resources (including the TLC), and the tree began to thrive.

I don’t even think she anticipated the arrival of the birds. This reminds me that God has a way of surprising us in ways we never could’ve expected. My mom is certainly aware of the nest, but doesn’t do anything to it. She figures that this is the birds’ home, and they should be able to come and go as they please.

So, I’m grateful today for these important lessons from a ficus tree. It just goes to show that you never really know what God is up to, do you?

Here’s my prayer for today: Dear God, I’m both amazed and humbled to see what You’ve done with this ficus tree. Thank You for taking good care of the ficus, especially when You knew that I was not capable of doing so. I’m grateful to see that it has flourished under my mother’s love and care, and I’m also delighted to see that the birds have made it their home. 

Help me to remember that You are always at work, often in ways that I could never predict. It seems to me that You’re constantly in the business of surprising me in new and different ways, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Bring on the surprises, I say! Thanks again for this important reminder from nature. In Your precious name – Creator God – I pray, Amen.

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