Spring is quietly emerging all around us. We see hints of green peeking from buds on tree branches. Daffodils are arising from their quiet rest under blankets of mulch; a few early arriving yellow flowers are trumpeting reveille to spring. Ah, spring! What a wonderful time of the year!
It seems like some plants respond to spring’s wake up call before all others. In fact, they cheat a little, because they merely slow their pace a bit during winter. This makes it seem like they get a head start on all the others. One such plant is the prolific climbing ivy which seems to be everywhere.
Its presence prompted one beautiful, brown-eyed, preschool girl to ask, “Daddy, why do the trees have vines growing on them?”
Her question led him to see something he hadn’t seen before. Almost all of the trees that surround the parking lot of his family’s church facilities had vines growing on them. His response to this observation is what impressed me the most.
You see, I learned of this exchange only when I saw the little girl’s father standing under a tree at the edge of the parking lot. He had his pruning shears in hand and was snipping away at the vines. This was just before our worship gathering on Sunday evening. I stood there a moment sizing up the situation. It was probably the Curious George look on my face that prompted him to explain what he was doing, and why.
After noting that his daughter’s question left him with a sense that someone needed to do something to rescue our tree friends from the vine monsters (not in so many words). He then said, “I can’t do them all at once, but I can do two trees each week.”
The fact that worship was about to begin and that I am the preacher compelled me to break off the conversation at this point. But, our brief exchange has returned to my thoughts often.
The first thing that came to mind was that well-known story about the four friends named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. Do you remember it? The condensed version goes something like this: Everybody saw something that needed to be done. In fact, he thought that Somebody ought to do something about it. Well, Somebody thought that Anybody could do it; but Nobody got it done.
What we all need to realize is that everybody is somebody in Christ’s body. That’s what our vine-snipping brother illustrates. He didn’t go to somebody and say something needs to be done about those vines. He just did something about them! Praise God for such pure examples of selfless service!
As I continue to reflect on this, a few additional thoughts have come to mind. These are:
1) How many times have we been thwarted by analysis paralysis? How many times have committees been formed and numerous meetings conducted to determine the best path forward in the face of this unfolding “Ivy Situation”? It happens, doesn’t it? Regarding this, someone has said: When all is said and done, more is usually said than done. The alarming thing about these “Ivy Situations” is they don’t take a break while we discuss them. They keep on growing, creeping steadily up and over and around and through every branch of the tree. If they are not stopped, they will kill the tree!
2) How many times have we just about “sophisticated” ourselves to death? Haven’t we sometimes focused an excessive amount of energy and resources on studying the growth patterns of ivy plants? When we do so, aren’t we majoring in minors and minoring in majors? Yes, I know that ivies are wonderful plants and I apologize to the ivy lovers amongst us. But, for now, just go with me. In this scenario, the ivy plant is the enemy. It takes nutrients the trees need out of the soil and, if left unchecked, it will eventually smother its host to death. A father’s explanation of the situation to his child was all the impetuous he needed to determine that he would simply push through the problem and become part of the solution.
3) How many times have we looked so intently for the best way to eradicate ivy plants that we missed the solution that is right under our noses? The best solutions are usually the least complicated ones. In this case, there was some effort involved. But, amazingly, God had already provided the tools and the strength for this tree-saving-vine-snipper to get the job done. All he had to do was show up. Now, in the interest of complete disclosure I must add that since poison ivy is known to lurk in some of our tree friends’ shadows, there was some risk involved, as well. Still, we note that when the desire to do something was joined with determination to act, positive results followed shortly thereafter.
Just think of what would happen in our lives if we were not so full of ourselves that could see all the things like this that we’ve never noticed before.
Just think how much better our homes and churches would function if we were not so self-important that we were constantly pretending towards perfection and just implemented the simple and obvious solutions to our “ivy situations”.
Just think how much good we could do if all of us would just tackle two trees at a time.
© Bill Williams
March 14, 2006