I have a really beautiful Bloodgood Japanese Maple tree in my front yard. It has a tall, cool architectural vibe to it that makes me smile. I bought it from the same tree company that installed the rest of our trees. The thing is, this single tree has struggled off and on for the last few years.
The first year it was rather sparse, but I chalked that up to its being young. The next year it looked glorious although still small, so I imagined it was just warming up to its job of making my garden beautiful and my heart happy! But every year it seems to get less and less interested in producing the amazing red leaves that are supposed to be its trademark. Last year I decided I would give it one more year and then I’d have to make the hard decision to have it removed.
Before going to such drastic lengths, I studied up on what might be wrong. I checked all the thin little limbs and most of them still bent and had a bright green core to them when scratched. The tree itself was still alive. Any branches that were dead, I snipped away so my sweet little tree could breathe and get back to the business of providing beauty near my butterfly garden.
That seemed to help and so I decided to give it another year. I researched some more and found that these trees sometimes succumb to a type of wilt that will slowly kill it completely. But my tree didn’t have the universal symptoms all other trees exhibit when they have that fungus. So I checked that off my list of possible answers.
But there was one more thing to check before hanging up my gardening trowel and I believe I discovered what is going on. We’ve had a problem with moles ever since moving into our home. The tunnels they made had caused the old grass and dirt to be mushy when you walked on them. So when we ripped out all the old yard and created my new garden, I’ve been diligent about keeping moles in their place…either deep in the ground or visiting the empty lot down the street! Every time I see a low running mound of dirt, I stomp across it, collapsing the thoroughfare underneath my garden boots. The neighbors are now used to seeing me stomp across my yard, muttering to the moles that they aren’t wanted here. They don’t even ask or look twice as they pass by, crossing to the other side of the street so they don’t get a garden boot sailing their direction!
After three years of stomping and fighting, I’ve decided to embrace the positive side to having little tunnels around my garden bed. They don’t bother my grass, they only eat grubs never the roots of my plants and their tunnels have created the most beautifully aerated soil in town! Digging up old plants and putting in new ones is so much easier than digging through the normal clay dirt we have here!
Back to my Japanese Maple, now that I’m pretty sure I know what the issue is, I’m able to pack in some extra soil, make sure I have the nutrient levels correct when I fertilize and I think it’s going to make it! I’ve gotten pretty good at nursing plants back to life.
I got to thinking that if I had just accepted the fact that my tree was probably dead and I should just get rid of it, I would miss out on the next twenty years or so that it could be providing it’s amazing colors to my garden. I would have written off a totally salvageable tree because I wasn’t willing to keep digging until I found out what the issue was.
Relationships are like that, don’t you think? You can be chugging along thinking that all is well and suddenly there’s no life left in the friendship. It can be frustrating and so easy to just chalk it up to being something out of your control so its best to just move on. But how many amazing relationships and interactions are we missing out on because we don’t dig around a little to see if we can find out the real issue.
A mole is a teeny tiny little creature but its damage can be as evident as if it were a giant grizzly bear! You know what else may seem tiny and inconsequential? Our words. Have you noticed when someone gives you a simple compliment, you can be buoyed for the rest of the day? And when someone says something sideways it can crush that feeling just as quickly as it came?
There is an old saying most of us were taught as a child to try to ease the pain of being picked on or bullied at school – “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.” Although the intentions are good, there is nothing true about that statement. Broken bones can heal, but hurtful words can stay with us for a lifetime.
Our words last way beyond the initial interaction, like a plume of exhaust after an old beat up truck passes by. If left to fester, negative words can silently kill a relationship, a sense of self confidence and worth. Unkind words can leave a nasty trail of pain and sadness like the mole tunnels crisscrossing across my garden.
But, like the aerating tunnels that help my plants grow, words can provide a lifeline in the middle of a storm; they can breathe new life into a dry dusty soul.
And because words last long after the speaker has moved on, they can be the balm needed for a wounded heart even when the one speaking doesn’t realize it. Good, kind and gracious words bring up memories that can hold a hurting heart up, and give courage to someone stumbling to get back up again. Loving words can bring a lost soul home, lift a hopeless person to new heights and draw the world to Jesus.
Words can tear down just as easily as they can build up. Words are a mighty weapon or an indestructible life raft. We must choose how we use them carefully. I did a quick search in my Bible concordance to find some verses that talk about words and the power such a tiny organ as the tongue has. Here are only a few verses of the many verses I found that I will meditate on this week:
The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. – Proverbs 12:18
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. – Proverbs 12:25
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. – Proverbs 16:24
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. – Psalms 19:14
How will you use your words today?
I pray that, as believers, we would be more aware of how our words can effect others. And, I pray that we would not let other’s words fester and grow bitter in our souls. Forgiveness is one of the amazing things God provided for us. Maybe we need to learn to provide a little forgiveness to our fellow humans whose words have been meant to hurt.