Watching Them Grow


Christina Baker // Genius of the Call

1 Comments

April 2  

About fifteen years ago, a priest friend of ours gifted us with a six-inch tall satsuma orange tree he had grown from seed. We didn’t put the tree in the ground right away, because we were getting ready to move, and didn’t want to leave the tree behind. So we put it in a larger pot, in a sheltered spot on the back porch, and waited.

That poor tree moved to five different houses with us. More than once I neglected it when there were other things on my mind, and was sure I had killed it. Yet the bare stalk would leaf again in spring, a tiny resurrection repeated again and again.

When we finally bought a house and began to put down our own roots, we knew it was time to give this little tree a chance to thrive. We planted it right by our front door, in a little triangular bed, surrounded by gardenias. And we waited.

Five springs came and went, and the tree grew, but only a hand-full of flowers ever arrived, and no sign of fruit. We started to wonder if its difficult childhood had injured it somehow—if it would ever be able to bear fruit at all.

And then this year, around the beginning of March, the blossoms arrived. Loads of fragrant white flowers covered every branch. The scent hit you about half-way up the path to the front door. And as the petals have dropped, the tiny green fruit, still about the size of mustard seeds, have become visible.

Galatians 6:9 tells us, “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up.”

Our children and this tree have grown side by side. Just as with the tree, I have mourned my children’s setbacks and rejoiced in each small resurrection.

All those times when I was crying into my pillow, at a complete loss as to how to love one of my children well, how to give them what they needed to grow into a loving, holy person, I couldn’t even have imagined the flowers that are in my life now. I had hope, but it was blind to the future. Slowly, that hope has begun to take more definite shapes. Maybe this one has a vocation to religious life; that one has a gift that lights up the stage. They all want to share beauty with the world. They all want to alleviate the suffering they see around them.

I couldn’t have predicted any of this ten years ago—I just did the best I could in the moment, and waited. And waited. And the waiting isn’t over, and won’t be over until, God willing, my family and I meet in Heaven someday. But just as I rejoice in the beautiful flowers outside my front door, I thank God for the glimpses of my children’s flowering that he has allowed me to see as they grow.

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