It is often said that “life imitates art.” This morning’s gospel reminded me in a nearly perfect analogous situation that sometimes “life imitates gospel.” We had in our yard a beautiful hibiscus tree, a memorial to my father, that was moved early in the spring of this year out of necessity. As the year progressed I was concerned to see that it produced no flowers – even no leaves – so it seemed doomed. When our handyman asked if he should cut it down I used almost the exact words of the gospel, saying: Leave it for this year. I shall cultivate the ground around it; it may flower in the future. (LK 13:8-9) I must admit that my hope was not strong but, miraculously, just last month we saw a bit of green on a couple of branches and even a few buds. Two weeks ago, during a Wisdom School at our retreat center, I asked a participant from Maine who is an expert on all things natural and agrarian to look at it. She assured me energetically that the tree would survive and even thrive next year, telling me what nourishment would help if I’d just dig around the base and add what she wrote down for me. I don’t know what happened to the poor fig tree in the gospel but I do trust that I will see the beauty of hibiscus again next year.
A lesson from this story is, of course, the necessity of patience in addition to hope, but also sometimes a bit of advice doesn’t hurt. I have found this to be true in a number of situations recently. In the past week I was gifted more than once with conversations in which people were able to dig around in the ground of my spirit to loosen some of what they could see in me that I couldn’t. If I pay attention and winter well, I might see some growth in those areas by spring. I’ll be watching in me and my hibiscus for the flowering I attend to the regular care and feeding of both of us.