I am going to tell you a story about cactus. I should not be able to share the photo at the top of this post because the cactus pictured here should be dead. Instead, it has filled the pot it’s planted in and looks as if it longs to take over the entire backyard.
My mother found this cactus when she accompanied my stepfather on a fishing trip. The road they were driving down had been graded and the cactus lay along the side, uprooted and left to die. My Mom-very carefully-picked it up, put it in a box, brought it home, and promptly forgot about it. It lay in the box for months until she re-discovered it and planted it in the pot to see if it would survive. Some bits did die but the rest not only survived, it thrived. It has filled not one but three pots and delights us with the beautiful blooms.
We have feral cats in our neighborhood and they have chosen to use our backyard as their toilet. We have tried various deterrents but they would just move from one toilet spot to another. They were beginning to use the space behind our tree and so, about a month ago, my stepfather when out and-very carefully-trimmed off some pieces of cactus which he scattered on the ground around the tree. Bits of the cactus were once more left to die.
They did not. They did not need careful planting. They did not need watering. They took root, righted themselves, and, though separated from their source still in the pot; bloomed right alongside. While a bit concerned that it has been set free from the confines of the pot, I can’t help but admire the tenacity of this spiny little plant. As I consider it, I learn two lessons.
Lesson One has to do with the ground. I have not carefully examined the cactus for sharp pokey reasons. Perhaps it hasn’t actually rooted. Perhaps it has bloomed because of the life that was in it from when it was joined to the parent plant still rooted in the pot. Perhaps, as time passes and it remains cut off from that life; it will use up the vestiges, wither, and die. This reminds me of the Parable of the Sower, specifically the seed that immediately sprang up but had no root and withered away (Matthew 13:5-6). Whether or not a believer is vitally connected to the life of Jesus is a truth that cannot but manifest itself. There may be lovely full blooms at the moment but without being rooted deep into His life, those blooms can’t be sustained. They will wither and die. My highest priority is to keep myself in Him so that He can ensure I am good ground and His Life within me flourishes.
Lesson Two has to do with roots. Perhaps the cactus has rooted and it will continue to bloom for many more seasons. Despite the intentions of those who tore it from the ground or cut it and scattered it, it has put down roots and is thriving. I may be pushing the metaphor here but, in this tenacity, I see a picture not only of the strength but the quality of our lives in Christ Jesus. 1 John 3:1 says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” The Amplified has “…what an incredible quality of love”. I have heard Malcolm Smith speak on this passage and he likens this love of The Father to finding an orchid growing within the Arctic Circle. It’s an impossible kind of love but yet here it is: we see it in Jesus.
Jesus gives a beautiful description of Himself in Revelation 22:16: “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” I realize this is highly symbolic language yet I like thinking of Jesus as The Root. The source of my life is The Root.
This being so, what is there to fear? It doesn’t matter if the circumstances of my life are such that it appears my life couldn’t possibly bear fruit. I died and my life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). He is The Root and there is nothing in this world that can separate me from Him. The Father abides in Jesus, Jesus abides in me, and I abide in Him (John 15, John 17:23). It’s an impossible love. It’s an impossible life. It’s indestructible (Hebrews 7:16, NAS) and here it is blooming where it is least expected.
Unless noted otherwise, scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982