I remember the trees from 30 years ago. They were always beautiful in the spring. White blooms. Unpleasant scent. Bradford pear. That’s what they’re called. Beautiful but smelly.
I’ve begun driving by those trees again. I park near them at work. But 30 years have gone by. The trees still stand. Taller. Fuller. They produce much more shade. They have matured. They’ve reached their full potential.
I think of all the years these trees have stood lining the street. They’ve seen people come and go. They’ve weathered many a storm. Their branches have been blown by heavy gusts of wind. Their flowers have bloomed every spring and their leaves have fallen every autumn. During the summer, the leaves of those trees have provided shade for anyone walking or parking nearby. In the winter, the bare branches have cast eerie shadows in early nightfall.
They have survived the many unknowns of the past three decades. And still they stand tall and proud. Still they thrive. They’re doing their job. Stand tall. Throw shade. Beautiful blooms. Year after year. Nothing changes for them. Yet everything changes. And still they stand.
Oh. They aren’t invincible. They can be beaten. They can succumb to an invasion of an incurable disease. They can be struck by lightening without notice. They can come down. You see. Bradford Pear trees are perfectly symmetrical and grow in a beautiful shape, yet they are structurally weak. Apparently, these trees are a threat. But who knew?
Yeah. Mature trees are vulnerable. There could be an internal weakness that is unseen by the human eye. A slight crack down the long trunk. Perhaps they are dying of thirst and no one knows. An act of God can take them down without warning. There could be unknown root damage discovered when hope is long gone. Or possibly the damage is due to manmade machines. One never knows what lies beneath the surface of outward beauty.
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord , they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green. Psalm 92:12-14
The beauty seen on the outside can cover a multitude of sins. Many weaknesses. Many faults. Many fears and uncertainties. Many secrets. But once the outer shell is cracked wide open, the unknown comes spilling out. The truth comes out. It isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always redeemable. Or is it?
Maturity takes hard work and years of determination. Perseverance. Discipline. Cutting off branches that don’t produce fruit. Pruning fruitful branches for even more fruit.
Suckers can drain the life from the tree. They zap water and nutrients from the main tree. They’re unhealthy for the tree. And they’re just plain ugly.
Christian faith is similar to trees. True maturity takes hard work. Cutting out the branches of our lives that aren’t fruitful. Pruning the fruitful talents and skills given by God. And suckers can drain the life out of people. Poor habits. Abusive relationships. Deadly addictions. They’re unhealthy and they’re plain ugly. Age isn’t necessarily a sign of maturity. Do the hard work and put in the time to study and show yourself approved.
For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. Hebrews 5:13-14