Hanging On to Things

We have one skinny Bobie Bobie tree in our garden. It’s a rare variegated Australian one. We’re hoping it will eventually cover some of the dull paling fence outside our bedroom window. Another name for it is Phebalium squameum variegatum, but its botanical name is Nematolepis squamea. That’s your botany lesson for today! 

In our previous garden we had twenty of these attractive trees, forming two hedges at right angles to each other. Here they are. They had a special purpose.

Before the new buyers moved in, they paid us an early visit. As we stood among the fruit trees, the lady asked, ‘Do you have these hedges to keep the wind out?’ ‘Yes’, I replied, ‘it gets very blowy up here’.

Our home was on top of a steep hill, so you can imagine how exposed the garden was. One day the sweetcorn plants bowed before the wind until they lay prostrate on the ground! Two days later, before we could remedy their reclining sprawl, another big blow came from the opposite direction and restored them to their normal upright stance, but we couldn’t rely on that happening on cue!

A few years after we shifted, we heard the property was on the market again, so we checked it online. Most of those variegated trees had been removed! What remained of the orchard was open to the winds. Here’s the new look! Each phebalium would have been worth many dollars. They’re difficult to propagate, and Australian native plants don’t like to be moved, otherwise they could have been sold. There aren’t many of these particular trees available, even in the specialist Australian Plant nurseries.

I know that once a place is sold, the new people own it, and can do what they like with it. We did something similar in our new garden when we removed a lot of spikey-looking plants, and replaced them with softer foliage. But I did feel a bit sad for those phebaliums. They tried hard to grow and now they’re gone.

I wondered about my attitude to this. I could just forget it, but maybe there was a lesson I could learn? God will use our experiences to teach us an important life-truth … if we’ll listen. And sure enough, He reminded me of something I’d read many years before – in about 1960!  It may have been in Isobel Kuhn’s autobiographical book, By Searching, but lately I’d read the incident again; she repeated it in the continuation of her story – In the Arena. It’s about hanging onto things.

Isobel was a missionary to China, and was given this advice by a fellow Christian: ‘Keep your treasures on the open palm of your hand. If you hold something tight-clenched in your fist, God may have to hurt you in order to open your fingers and take it from you. But if it is offered on the open palm of your hand, you will hardly know when it is gone.’

I’m not sure that God wants to hurt us; we’re probably doing it to ourselves! But it’s an interesting illustration. I’d actually recalled this quote in a slightly different way. What I remember of it was that ‘our treasures will be crushed if we grasp them too tightly in our hand, and then they’re no use’. Over the years, I’ve applied it many times in that way. I’ve even repeated it to other people in ‘my’ version!

I pray I’ll always remember to keep my treasures on an open palm and allow God to take them if he wants to. Alternatively, he may leave them there for me to share!

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