When I was growing up, I had an old neighbor named Dr. Gibbs. He didn’t look like any doctor I’d ever known. He never yelled at us for playing in his yard. I remember him as someone who was a lot nicer than 1)circumstances warranted.
When Dr. Gibbs wasn’t saving lives, he was planting trees. His house sat on ten acres, and his life’s goal was to make it a forest.
The good doctor had some interesting theories concerning plant 2)husbandry. He came from the “No pain, no gain” school of 3)horticulture. He never watered his new trees, which flew in the face of conventional wisdom. Once I asked why. He said that watering plants spoiled them, and that if you water them, each successive tree generation will grow weaker and weaker. So you have to make things rough for them and 4)weed out the 5)weenie trees early on.
He talked about how watering trees made for shallow roots, and how trees that weren’t watered had to grow deep roots in search of 6)moisture. I took him to mean that deep roots were to be treasured.
So he never watered his trees. He’d plant an oak and, instead of watering it every morning, he’d beat it with a rolled-up newspaper. Smack! Slap! Pow! I asked him why he did that, and he said it was to get the tree’s attention.
Dr. Gibbs 7)went to glory a couple of years after I left home. 8)Every now and again, I walked by his house and looked at the trees that I’d watched him plant some twenty-five years ago. They’re 9)granite strong now. Big and 10)robust. Those trees wake up in the morning and beat their chests and drink their 11)coffee black.
I planted a couple of trees a few years back. Carried water to them for a 12)solid summer. Sprayed them. Prayed over them. The whole nine 13)yards. Two years of 14)coddling has resulted in trees that expect to be 15)waited on hand and foot. Whenever a cold wind blows in, they tremble and chatter their branches. Sissy trees.
Funny things about those trees of Dr. Gibbs’. 16)Adversity and 17)deprivation seemed to benefit them in ways comfort and ease never could.
Every night before I go to bed, I check on my two sons. I stand over them and watch their little bodies, the rising and falling of life within. I often pray for them. Mostly I pray that their lives will be easy. But lately I’ve been thinking that it’s time to change my prayer.
This change has to do with the inevitability of cold winds that hit us at the core. I know my children are going to encounter hardship, and I’m praying they won’t be naive. There’s always a cold wind blowing somewhere.
So I’m changing my prayer. Because life is tough, whether we want it to be or not. Too many times we pray for ease, but that’s a prayer seldom met. What we need to do is pray for roots that reach deep into 18)the Eternal, so when the rains fall and the winds blow, we won’t be 19)swept 20)asunder.