It’s spring where I live, and while I empathize with all the allergy sufferers I love this time of year. From my kitchen island I can see redbuds and crabapples in full bloom. I can also see irises, tulips, lilies, lamb’s ear, and hostas popping out of the previously barren ground. I never tire of seeing God’s beauty in my little part of the world, and I never take it for granted. It takes my breath away every single year.
The first tree to bloom around here is the Bradford Pear. Its fluffy white flowers look like popcorn, and the pear trees signal the start of spring better than any calendar ever could. You’d never guess what a horrible nuisance they are. They smell like rotten fish, they break with any substantial wind, and they wreak havoc on our local pear population. Plus they don’t actually produce pears. They sure are pretty though.
One day I was in my yard admiring my “stinky trees” as the kids call them. I heard God say to my heart, “be a pecan, not a pear.” I turned around and looked up at a row of pecan trees that edge our property to the west. They are one of the last trees to bloom in the spring, and right now they are gnarly. In fact, they look dead. Every year I wonder if they are dead and then, at the last possible moment, the leaves bud.
Be a pecan, not a pear.
Let me tell you a little more about the pretty pear trees. Bradford Pears grow fast, and they have a nice, uniform, pear shape that looks great lining a driveway. In early spring the white flowers give way to bright green leaves, and in the fall the leaves turn a gorgeous orangey-red. About 20 years ago we didn’t know these trees existed, but soon they started being planted in subdivisions, highway medians, and public parks. We didn’t know at the time that the trees only last 15-20 years. All that rapid growth comes at the expense of structure. The central trunk is short, so most of the growth happens in the branches. The branches are mostly bark, so whenever a strong Oklahoma wind comes through, those poor branches don’t stand a chance. We’ve lived in our house for almost three years and we’ve lost 4 or 5 pear trees in that short time (along with whatever they fell on). The tree guy that comes every few months to cut down our broken trees tells us that Bradford Pear removal is now a huge part of his business. I’m so glad we can help put his children through college.
Now let me tell you about pecan trees (and it’s pronounced puh-CAWN, not PEE-can, by the way). At 15-20 years old, pecan trees are just getting started. Depending on whether the tree was grafted from an existing tree, or grown from a dropped seed, many pecans don’t start producing nuts until they are roughly the age most pears are headed to the burn pile. Then they have another 75-100 years of production left in them. They usually get to be about 100 feet tall, providing tons of shade and privacy. And those Oklahoma winds I mentioned earlier? Our pecan trees bend and sway, but we never lose more than a few clumps of leaves. Our trees provide a wind break for our house, so when summer storms roll in and our friends are getting their trampolines out of their neighbors’ bushes, our backyard barely feels a thing. Our pecan trees aren’t pretty, but they are strong and purposeful.
We live in a society that idolizes the pear. We want quick growth and showy results.
I see it in every aspect of our lives. I have friends who jump from one business venture to the next, hoping to make thousands of dollars a month in no time at all like the business founders promise. Some really are making good money, but it didn’t happen overnight.
I have personally tried almost every lose-weight-quick method out there. The fact that I’ve tried more than one tells you the long-term results were lacking.
When we see an undesirable trait in our kids, we want it gone by the weekend. I mean, surely there’s an oil that takes care of back talking, right?
I even see it in church culture, particularly women’s ministry culture. There are certain speakers, singers, and writers who are in high demand. We make celebrities of the ones who are sent to teach us about humility and self-sacrifice.
How about we start appreciating the pecan?
Recently I watched the IF: Gathering online. This yearly conference held in Austin, Texas, brings together well-known speakers in the Christian realm, but they also bring in lesser known people with powerful stories to share. One woman, Jill Briscoe, was new to me. She is in her 80s and spoke a message based on decades of ministry. The other speakers were great, don’t get me wrong, but Jill is the one who stuck with me. She exudes wisdom that only comes with experience. She exemplifies a trust in God based on many years of trials and miracles. I’m not worried about hearing a scandalous story about Jill Briscoe. Her faith has stood the test of time and her fruit is rich and soul-filling. She is a pecan in a world of pears.
I’m convinced that good results take time. Period. I wish it wasn’t so, but here we are. My kids aren’t going to change overnight. I’m not going to be skinny by tomorrow. Sometimes in order to make money, you just gotta put in the hours.
My spiritual growth will be slow and steady, but as long as I’m moving forward I’m sure to see progress. I think that’s what God expects of us. Lets grow tall and strong, producing fruit that lasts.