Every workday for the past ten-plus years as I have sat at my desk, the towering old pecan tree outside my second-story window in the Thompson Building has been my constant companion. It is a landmark on our campus and I feel fortunate to have been able – between tasks in the Registrar’s office – to look out the window and feel refreshed just by gazing at its bright green leaves and strong, textured branches.
I am not sure just how old the tree is, but it has been there for decades and is loved by students and staff alike. Each autumn when it drops its precious produce to the ground, young and old scramble to grab the pecans and carry them off to crack and enjoy. A few years ago when ambitious plans for a new building called for the removal of the tree, older members of the staff family protested, “Not that tree!” Much to our relief, due to economic restraints, those plans were dropped and the tree was spared.
The tree had been just something I enjoyed looking at, a pleasant diversion from the computer screen, until one particularly dark period in the life of our organization when God used it as an object lesson. We were going through a discouraging time and some of our personnel had lost hope and thrown in the towel. One of my co-workers wondered aloud in my presence if things would ever get better. It was then that the first lesson of the pecan tree crystallized in my mind and I shared it with the downhearted colleague.
“See that tree?” I asked him, pointing out the window. “Every spring it is the last one on campus to get its new leaves. All the other trees are decked out in their frilly little leaves, but this one remains bare and pitiful looking. But I know that indeed one day the fresh green leaves will spring forth again. We just have to be patient. One day things will get back to normal here. It’s God’s promise, just like His promise that everything will come in its season.”
Many springs have come and gone since that day, and yet there have been times when I have been tempted to believe that the tree must be dead because surely the leaves should have popped out by then. “Oh, ye of little faith!” A few days later I would detect tiny green bits of growth decorating the apparently lifeless branches and be reminded again of God’s faithfulness. (Oh, yes, and things did get better on campus, wonderfully better!)
Storms still occur, however. In July 2008 we had a visit from Dolly, a category-two hurricane that left a trail of destruction and flooding in her path throughout the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. Although our school escaped serious damage, water did enter some buildings, and shingles and trees were lost. The old pecan tree stood strong through the raging storm, but it lost many of its branches and its leaves were completely stripped away in the wind.
Not long after the hurricane, to my surprise, a new batch of bright green leaves appeared on the old tree. As these new leaves grew, I began to notice that they seemed bigger and thicker than before. I realized that the eight to ten inches of rain that Dolly brought with her must have enabled this spurt of growth. It was like a second springtime right outside my window. The hurricane had actually improved the tree!
It becomes obvious that God turns bad things into good. Going through a hurricane is not a happy experience, for humans or for trees. But after being battered around and even losing some of our “branches,” we can get a second chance at new growth. Our little green leaves can burst out and decorate our lives again so those around us can see how beautifully God can work in a life. And we need to be patient, wait on God, and have faith. Just when things look their worst, God might do a miracle and turn things around.
I will soon be moving to a new office in another building where I won’t be able to observe the changing scene outside my current office window. No doubt God will have new things to teach me, but I’ll never forget the lessons I’ve learned from the old pecan tree.