These last couple weeks, our driveway has been on fire. The bright reds and oranges of the Sweet Gum trees that line each side of it light up the path and almost seem to glow in the dark. I always look forward to this time of year for driving under them is like going through a colorful cavern.
When I first planted those ten trees over twenty years ago, however, they looked pretty pathetic. Some folks even laughed at my little sticks poking through the ground several feet back from each side of the driveway. Although they looked lonely and tiny at the time, I knew they would not always be so. With God’s help, the rain and the sun, and several years, they would grow into stately sentinels flanking our entry. Thankfully, all ten of them survived, thrived, and today provide one of the most colorful avenues on Violet Lane.
Someone once said, “Whoever plants a tree believes in the future.” Whereas vegetable seeds are planted for production within a few months and landscaping flowers often provide immediate beauty, trees are a longer term investment. However, if you don’t ever plant them because the waiting period is too long, you’ll never reap their benefits. On the other hand, as we age, we realize how quickly the years speed by and even slow growing trees have time to stretch their trunks and limbs to the sky.
There are many aspects of life that are similar. Although the payoff seems miniscule or even nonexistent at first, all large projects have to start somewhere. If we want to develop lives of honesty, integrity, and virtue, we must plant the seedling habits in spite of those who may ridicule us for doing so. There may be dry times or cold spells, but those small beginnings can eventually flourish into beautiful lifestyles that bear much fruit.
When the Jewish people had returned from their Babylonian captivity, they set out to rebuild the Lord’s temple and the walls of Jerusalem to the great dismay of their neighboring enemies. Some of them laughed and made fun of their efforts joking that if even a fox walked on the construction, it would collapse beneath the weight.
Zechariah, however, encouraged the people and cheered on the workers. In Zechariah 4:10 he asked, “Who despises the day of small things?” This prophet knew that all great projects have small beginnings and if those are never attempted because they seem insignificant, great results will never come to fruition. Thankfully, his fellow Hebrews ignored the ridicule of their neighbors, continued their work, and eventually saw the completed temple on its former site surrounded by tall protective ramparts. Even the largest building starts with the first block.
Another Bible book teaches a similar lesson where Job 8:5-7 says, “But if you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place. Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.” Indeed, as Job persisted through his trials, God did raise him from his ash heap and his later glory exceeded his former.
The next time you’re tempted to abandon your dreams or plans because others laugh, remember my trees. Whenever you doubt the possibility of the finished project due to its potential enormity, remember Zechariah. Whenever you’re struggling to make it through a difficult time, remember Job. Don’t despise the day of small things, but embrace it. For small beginnings can lead to big finishes if we continue to persevere with the help and blessing of the Lord Almighty.
Enjoying our trees, George