May 9, 2021

Sandra and I had a difficult time deciding the title of today’s post. We had at least three we both liked. The second title option was, “The Chinese Bamboo Tree.” Any one of the three titles could have worked, but we decided on the one above because it seemed to be more specific. I’ll explain.

Several days ago I was browsing through one of the social media platforms I often visit looking for something specific, when I saw the name of someone I knew many years ago. I had not heard or thought of this young man for a long time. His headline on the post said something like this: “I’m just about ready to give up. I’m tired of being a failure.”

This young man was my granddaughter’s friend, so I was old enough to have been his grandfather. I thought of posting an encouraging reply to his post but thought he may be like so many other youths of today who would probably think, “He’s just another old geezer. What could he possibly know about my problem and how to fix it.?

As I was very busy that day I just moved on and finally found what I was searching for, to begin with. At that point, I was just about ready to log off the computer for the rest of the day or maybe later. But something stopped me dead still and I thought, “Why not go ahead and post something encouraging for that young man to read. Whether he ever answers me or acknowledges me in any way is irrelevant. At least in my heart, I will know I tried to help someone.”

So I replied to his post, “Don’t get discouraged. I was around you enough when you were much younger to see that you had many God-given talents that you can be successful. Be patient and ask God to direct you as He wants to lead you. Maybe you just haven’t found your niche yet.”

After posting that reply to him, I logged off and went on about other things the rest of the day. But later on in the evening ,as Sandra and I were beginning to have our nightly devotionals before going to bed,, I mentioned to her what I had seen this young man post. She knew him too as he had visited our home many times. He was a fine young man and we were sorry that he was having some sort of problems. We agreed to pray for him.

Over the next few days, I continued thinking and praying for this young man. And I realized that this young man was having a very common problem – not just for youths, but people of all ages. So many people are plagued with thinking that they are failures. Often because many of their peers seem to have outshined them, are more successful than they are – at least the way the world measures success.

Let’s address the problem as it is.

Who can judge subject X and say he is not as successful as subject Y? 

By whose standards do we make such judgments?

Can you look back in time and remember the great children’s story of the Prince and the Pauper? I’ve known many very wealthy people in my life. And many of them would happily trade all their wealth to be as happy as some people they know who have little to no wealth. Maybe the person you may think of as a loser or failure has simply not hit his stride yet. Maybe everything he has ever done in the past, or things he has not done are all things lying dormant in his life just waiting for that right opportunity to burst forth and shine as never before. Some call such people as that late-bloomers.

This brings me to the second title choice for this blog post, “The Chinese Bamboo Tree”. I’ve been telling this story in my sermons for over 50 years. I’ve discovered there are several versions of this story, but all have the same lessons to be learned and encouragement to be utilized.

The story is this: A farmer plants a Chinese bamboo tree seed and patiently waits for the tree to emerge from below the ground. Year one the planter faithfully waters the seed, but nothing happens. In year two, the planter faithfully waters the seed, but nothing happens.  In year three the planter faithfully continues to water the seed, but still, nothing happens. In the fourth year the planter keeps watering the seed, but still can see nothing happening and is tempted to dig up the seed to see what if anything is happening. But the planter waits. And it’s a good thing he does. If he dug up the seed to inspect it, he would destroy all the deep growth going on in the root structure of the seed to make it possible to be adequately supported once the tree finally emerges from beneath the ground. In year five, the planter keeps watering the seed, and WHAM, the seed emerges from beneath the soil and grows 80 feet tall in six weeks. What an unbelievable feat! But it’s a true story.

So do we determine that the tree grew 80 feet in one year, or did the tree grow some each year while the seed was still underground and seemingly dormant for four years? I choose to believe the latter. The tree was growing each year whether anyone saw it growing or not. The seed was waiting for the right time to emerge.

Now let’s extrapolate that story to a human. Maybe the one you have watched and even made fun of for not being where you thought he should be. To those who are struggling to find their identity, I encourage you to continue to struggle until the time is right. You will emerge at the right time stronger than if you had not struggled.

I have a one-panel cartoon I clipped from a newspaper 50 years ago. I  see it occasionally, yellowed, but still readable and as true as ever. The cartoon shows a caterpillar. He says to the onlookers, “Don’t laugh at me, God is not through with me yet.”  AWESOME!

A companion story to go with that above is above people who somehow find a cocoon and ,meaning well, help what’s inside to emerge earlier than God intended. 100% of the time, the well-meaning people see their good deeds fail. The cocoon must struggle to become all that God meant him to be.

Life is sometimes one struggle after another. If we try to short-cut what God knows is for our best, we usually end up regretting it.

You may well be a late-bloomer. That’s okay. The Bible teaches everything happens in its proper time.

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God bless,
Spencer and Sandra Plumley