Last October, my church gave me a red dogwood tree. It was a beautiful gift -- just amazingly thoughtful, commemorating my first year as pastor. Yet anyone who truly knows me will appreciate the irony.
I grew up on a farm, and I spent much time as a young man tilling the soil and helping to make things grow. As soon as I was able -- and not one second later -- I escaped to college so that I would never have to do such things ever again. Those early memories of tilling the soil on my father's farm are not my fondest.
I had vowed to never even own a shovel. Yet last October, my church gave me a red dogwood. So, I trekked to Home Depot and picked up a fine shovel with a sharp point -- better for piercing the soil. And I took it home, planning to dig a dogwood-sized hole about 10 feet off my driveway in the front yard.
Honestly, I thought at first that I'd hit a subterranean rock structure. That little bit of North Augusta subdivision has some of the hardest soil in the world. But I persisted -- and the nose of the shovel didn't break. After awhile, my hole was big enough to accommodate the roots.
I watered the little tree religiously for the first several months. Every day, treated it to a dribbling of water. And I talked to it. Occasionally, somewhat to my surprise, I prayed over it.
Winter came. And it braved the cold, along with all the older and sturdier trees. Throughout the cool months, it stood in the front yard -- all brown and naked. And waiting.
Then came spring, and I noticed that white blossoms were blooming on my neighbor's dogwood trees. My neighbor's trees are large for dogwoods, and it seemed almost as though they were celebrating the change in season. But as for my little tree -- nothing. It just stood there, naked and brown. And waiting.
I mourned. I thought my little tree had failed to survive the winter -- that all the watering and the prayers had had no effect. These past couple of weeks, my neighbors -- if they were watching closely -- might have spotted me occasionally standing in my front yard near the little tree. Talking to it. Praying over it a bit. Gazing over at my neighbor's trees, as they swayed in the wind, waving their branches in the air as though praising God.
A couple of mornings ago, I noticed a change -- a startling change. I saw that buds had begun to open. The beginnings of little red flowers were popping up all over my little tree
My little red dogwood tree is a late bloomer -- just like me.