Tuesday, October 31, 2006

In 1992 the Hurricane "Iniki" slammed into the Hawaiian island of Kauai with 150 mph winds and torrential rains. It uprooted trees, collapsed buildings, and stripped the leaves and flowers from trees and bushes. The “Garden Island” had become, in one day, a skeleton of its former self. Where there had been blossoms…it was now barren.

But a curious thing began to happen in the months after the hurricane had swept through. The trees and bushes that were still left began to bloom abundantly.

Nine months after Iniki, my Father in Law was touring the National Botanical Garden on Kauai. He asked the curator, “Why this phenomenon? Why are these trees blooming so ferociously?” The curator (who was happy to have anyone in his garden after Iniki) said, “The Hurricane stresses the tree so severely…it thinks it’s going to die… therefore, immediately afterwards it produces abundant fruit and blossoms in order to get its’ seed out and into the ground…so that a new generation of trees will germinate and grow."

So...unstressed, the tree produces fruit and blossoms once a year…but when stressed, it blooms life abundantly.

Hearing this story made me think. Have I ever responded to the extreme stresses of hardship by producing something beautiful and life-giving?

My normal reaction to stress is to hunker down and grit my teeth. Make a list of things that have to be done, focus all my energy on merely getting through it. Survival. I think most people are like that.

And then I remembered.

When my dad died, I was 24. I had just gotten married and was (finally) ready to listen to him. But a heart attack killed him. I felt like every leaf had been stripped from the tree.

And in the months that followed, some emotions in me "died". My wife said (later), "It is like you went emotionally numb, John."

Jesus promised that while, "The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness." (John 10:10)

Because I as severely stresed by the hurricane of loss, I had to turn to God for strength and direction. God began to produce new life in me. The fruitfulness of love, and joy, and peace, and patience began appearing in my character. Not because I successfully willed them to happen. But because I placed the death of my father into the care of the Lord.

That fruit of the Spirit can blossom after the hurricane of job loss, divorce, grief and bereavement, sorrow. When you feel like every leaf has been stripped from the tree...Jesus can bring new growth that no hurricane can take away.

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