Outside one of our windows, stands a huge, ragged-along-the-edges tree fern. It’s not a pretty sight if I were completely honest with you. This fern made it through some significant hail storms during the past few weeks. Some of its stalks buckled under the pummeling rain and hail and now sag brown and lifeless. Some of its leaves are torn and will die soon. And yet, even though this plant appears like it’s been through the ringer, it is sprouting new life. Or actually, continuing to fan itself into life. It is producing new stalks which are in turn unfurling new fronds to make this tree fern grow stronger and taller.
Life can be like that, can’t it? Life can hit us hard and relentlessly beat us into the ground. And because of that beating, we could lose some limbs. We could lose our heart. We could even lose our way.
But, not if we are rooted.
But, not if we know where to draw our strength.
A tree fern’s trunk is supported by a fibrous mass of roots that expands and deepens as the tree fern grows. It does grow taller, up to 50 feet or so. Yet, it is very much dependent upon the strength of its root system to hold it steady, secure, and to provide the sustenance it needs for continued life and growth. When new fronds appear on the new tree fern stalk, they are rolled up tight. The fronds will only unfurl and expand when they have received exactly what they need.
As followers of Christ, we have a similar need. Our life and growth are dependent upon being rooted and grounded in Christ. We need His life giving waters to flow through us to help us grow and expand for the glory of His Name and His Kingdom. When we are beaten down, lose a limb, experience defeat or failure, suffer loss, or become sick, Jesus Christ does the heart work necessary to help us begin again; helping us grow in maturity, in grace, and in wisdom. He helps us regain our strength and grow even stronger in Him.
As I considered this word picture of the tree fern, I couldn’t help but think of those who do not know Christ by name and those who do not draw upon His strength when the storms of life roll in and beat them down. What do they do? How do they respond? Where do they go for help? Who encourages them to begin again?
What is our role and responsibility to those who do not know Christ during such times?
Or what is our role and responsibility to those who do not know Christ when they are just living life – one day at a time – like a tree fern growing new stalks and fronds?
Paul says this:
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. New International Version, Colossians 4: 5-6
The tree fern is not inside our house. It’s growing stronger and taller outside in a place where it has what it needs to grow. That doesn’t mean that we ignore it. When its old stalks and fronds fall over and die, we tend to it. When the tree fern grows in a direction that is not good for it, we redirect it. When the plant is battered and beaten by hail, we nurture it. No, this tree fern is not inside our house, but it’s in our garden. It’s close enough to us that we need to pay attention to its potential and its livelihood.
Do we offer the same kind of love, care, and nourishment to those in our sphere of influence who do not know Christ?
Are we wise in how we speak to those who do not our Lord and Savior?
Do we make the most of various opportunities to help them reach for their potential? Is our conversation – seasoned with salt – which means that we engage in conversation that is appealing and draws them into further dialogue?
When life beats our non-believing friends down, are we there to lift them up?
When a decision goes awry, are we there to help them discover a new possibility?
For just like the tree fern outside my window, a non-believer will not unfurl and open himself/herself up to us and to the Savior we love, if we are not caring for them well with gracious acceptance.
Life is just like a hail storm at times. Hail pummels to the earth and strikes without mercy. The tree fern in our garden is vulnerable to the storm’s intense lashing. It will suffer various levels of loss; dependent upon the strength of the storm. And it will need help – to recover and to keep growing.
Friends, I want to be some one to whom a person outside of my faith will come. I want to be gracious. I want to be some one who will listen. I want to be some one who will encourage them to seek Jesus Christ as their Ultimate Strength and Ultimate Salvation because they saw and received His love and care through me. Life is too rough and too brutal not to know the help and the love of Jesus. I believe that. I live that. I want those who stand outside of my faith – to know, believe, and live that too.
The tree fern outside my window serves as a great visual reminder to remember those who are outside my faith, but close enough to receive my love and care and perhaps one day will accept faith in Christ as their own.