Have you ever seen a dog do a trick called "playing dead"? It rolls over on it's back with four legs straight up in the air and its tongue drooping out of it's mouth. The dog tries not to move until the master claps his hands to signal the trick is over.
We have a tree that did that, sort of.
We had this pretty orchida tree that blooms with white flowers in June. Our dear friend Pandora Canton gave us this tree (and the one behind it) for the school garden last June. Although it flourished for several months, in December all of a sudden it dropped all of its leaves. I emailed Pandora asking her if it was deciduous. (Most trees in Belize keep their leaves all year long.) She said, "No, it should not be losing it's leaves." Within about a week the leaves were all brown and blowing to the ground. A barren gray stick-like object was where the tree used to be.
Hmmmm... Another teacher pointed out that a tree on the other side of the school grounds was also dead. He said maybe it was some kind of blight. Others told me to scrape a few branches and if it was green underneath it was still alive. Knife in hand I scratched a few branches to find brown dead, dried, twigs. They said cut it back until you hit green. I chopped and chopped...everthing seemed brown or grey. I started looking around for a new tree to plant in the space.
Meanwhile Kristel's dad came to cut down the other dead tree. By this time it was leaning on the school fence and becoming a problem. I asked him to haul away the ochida tree, too, so I could put something else in the hole. He didn't have time that day...so I put it off. And the dead orchida tree remained. Sometimes when we watered the other bushes and trees in the school yard, Sulmi or Alejandro asked me if they should water the dead orchida tree. In fact one time Sulmi was cracking up laughing as she held the hose on the barren gray stick in the ground.
Then one day about a month ago, I was watering the garden and mentally preparing a devotion that I was going to lead at our teachers' workshop on "Renewal". I was thinking about hope, about not giving up. I was singing in my head "Prescious Lord, Take my Hand" and then I noticed the tree, that orchida tree that I really needed to dig up and throw in the garbage...was blooming. (??!) At the very top, a new, soft, light green leaf was blowing in the breeze, like a little green flame on the end of a long grey stick. As I held the hose on the trunk I could see that there were a few other tiny 1/4 inch buds of green trying to come out of the ends of two other branches.
I was SURE it was dead! But it wasn't. I had given up on it. It was worthless, I thought. It was never going to grow. What a fabulous metaphor for our workshop....to never give up on that difficult child in your class, or yourself, or that co-worker, but to hope. When YOU can't.....doesn't mean God can't. So grab a hold of God's hand and cling to that Hope that God is in control and God can do ANYTHING. He is able.
Yesterday when we were watering the garden Sulmi said the tree looked like it came out of a Dr. Seuss book with its long branches and leaves popping out in bunches at the tips. Ok... honestly, it is not yet the most beautiful tree on the block, but every time I look at it, the tree speaks to me a message of Hope, which is pretty impressive for a "dead" tree.