There are great strengths associated with empathy: the ability to understand another person different from myself, the ability to think like they do so as to explain things in words they use or thought patterns they think. Oh, it’s even just plain fun, to read a book and become the character as you read, to act out a story, whatever.
A strength of empathy found its expression in a delightful way just this week.
I had bought Ravinia a dwarf Meyer Lemon tree more than a year ago, with money from her paternal grandfather who heard her heart’s request, although she had asked instead for money to support her Compassion child, Heydi. He gave her the money, and asked me to get her the tree later.
We bought a lemon tree, me knowing nothing about tree planting, having gophers in the neighborhood, and all. So we thought, where to put it? Ravinia wanted a lemon tree outside her window, with thoughts of climbing out the window (large, ground floor, think fire escape) into its branches.
We had studied Biblical Feasts a year or more before buying the tree, and we knew about the birthday of trees, the commands of God to let a tree grow for three years before picking any of its fruit, and then to bring the fruit to the house of God, and then the fourth year to eat of it. Did that apply to a nursery-bought tree, full of fruit and flower? We decided we wanted to follow that command.
So the poor tree waited until I found a proper spot (by prayerfully digging my shovel in three or four times in the hillside 4 feet outside her window until it sank nicely and didn’t hit rock) and got planted and sometimes watered, and lost all its fruit and eventually all its leaves in winds…still alive.
This spring I wondered if we’d killed the tree. I sort of prayed about it, talked to it. I thought of Dickon in The Secret Garden and wondered if it were still “wick” and saw that yes it was. There were leaf
buds on it, but they had never opened.
Meanwhile I had bought roses on Mother’s day and planted them another place, and actually have kept them well watered, and shared their blooms, and I thought, maybe the Lemon wanted a move? We bought a palm for Father’s day and finally a half barrel container and soil, soil which was good for palms and for citrus. So the Lemon got moved, and citrus soil filled the hole.
It gets water when the roses do. And the leaves came out, and perhaps a couple buds?
I think perhaps the joy of a rose bud promising a flower is what keeps me watering.
But will I remember to be faithful when there is nothing to see?
I was starting out with the problem of empathy. I went on about the strengths. The weakness, however, is in consistency. I can forget the lemon when there are too many other things to water, too much else to attend to.
It hit me today, and I was sitting there, in prayer before God, confessing all my imaginative wanderings, living in the stories of books or movies, neighbors and relatives. All the empathy strength of understanding others is no good if I’m not watering, if the hose is disconnected, if I have lost my self and source. I am not Mary Lenox, I am not Lara Timmins (been watching Lark Rise to Candleford), I am not my neighbor (whose story I live into as I pray for her), I am myself. Beth Werner Lee. Beth before God.
All thanks and praise to God: (and the Biblestudy that brought this on) Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, and Corrector of my wrongs, correcting me with such timely love, that I may walk in fellowship the road he has prepared for me.
Linking up with stories on relationship: