Thursday, May 30, 2013


Several years ago (15-20) we were looking for a tree to provide some shade in our front yard.  Most nurseries we visited took us to flowering fruit or maple type trees but we wanted something that was a little unusual.  At one place they showed us a lovely tree called a Hawthorn.  This was in the days before the Internet was ubiquitous so we trusted the folks at the nursery when they said we would be happy with this choice.

The first few years of growth were very slow – as we had been told – but finally the tree started to make some progress.  Alas, with growth we discovered a secret or two!!
Bigger and more mature than ours

First of all, this was a HawTHORN tree so why were we surprised when these little spiky things started appearing all through the tree branches?!!  It just never dawned on us that this would be part of the package.
That's about the size of it.

But that was only the first gift from our new Crataegus (the official name of the tree).

Beautiful white flowers from the Hawthorn Tree
Early one spring morning I happened to be outside working and there was this horrible odor that smelled like rotting flesh.  I looked all over the yard for a dead cat or bird or something but there was nothing.   Then I happened to walk by the Hawthorn tree and nearly keeled over.  IT WAS THE TREE!!  I drew closer and discovered that the beautiful white blooms that had just started appearing on the tree were exuding the nasty, disgusting smell.  Yes, this lovely, prickly, slow growing but tremendously strong tree was also a real stinker (to quote Samwise Gamgee).

I looked on the Internet (enough years had passed and we were up-to-date in that regard) only to find that this is a common occurrence for Crataegus trees.  So we had a decision to make – do we keep the smelly, thorny tree or do we chop it down and start over.

Actually, after so many years the decision was pretty easy because we had grown to love a number of things about our tree.  We just couldn’t part with it.

For instance, when the flowers were finished with their stinking (usually two weeks or so after appearing) little fruits started to form.  They start out with a light orange color and then progress to a deep red that looks so regal against the background of green in the leaves.  It’s almost like having our own large Christmas tree in the front yard every year.  And the leaves stay on the tree much longer than all the others so the effect is really amazing.  How could we cut down such a special tree simply because it had a couple of problems?

Sort of gives the image -- But Better in real life
I think sometimes we are all like our Hawthorn tree and its progress in life.  People generally start out cute and small and easy to endure (OK, not me but most everyone else) but as they grow, others start to see the thorns and odors that come with existence (this is meant figuratively, not literally so no comments on men’s behavior).  When our acquaintances try to become more in our lives it is often the thorns of personality or habit that poke at them and make them wary of deeper intimacy.

It’s not like we don’t want to be close but our own insecurities and actions create barriers that suppress friendship and good relationships.
Looking for beauty can be difficult, even when we are anxious to find it.  Just because a new friend has idiosyncrasies that seem odd, we might be wise to remember we have that same.

There is always a part of anyone that can be found and nurtured to bring out the beauty of the individual – we just have to be patient and look.

There were times (even before we discovered the smell and thorns) that I wanted to cut down the Hawthorn.  The growth was so painfully slow that I wondered if we would ever have shade on the front door.  But patience (with trees and people) has helped reap a reward well worth the wait.

I love our tree!!  But I love people even more and I hope that my choices can bear that out as a truth in my interactions.  I know God and Christ love me and they keep pruning and fertilizing me so I can be a glorious tree in the garden of eternity.  May you be also.

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