Over a decade ago, I bought my wife a beautiful flowering crab apple tree as an anniversary present.
I planted the tree that spring day on the rise of a hill, right by our driveway, so she could enjoy it every time she drove past. It grew and prospered that first summer.
Unfortunately, we had a very cold and harsh winter that year.
When it came spring, even though all the other trees put forth buds and fresh green leaves, the crab apple was dead.
Or so I thought.
Some time later, I noticed sprigs and shoots coming from the base. The top was dead, but the root lived.
Over the following years, I let the tree grow, but it wasn’t a flowering crab anymore. It was some wild, straggly half-bush, half-tree kind of thing. It never produced fruit or flowers.
Still, I let it grow.
Now, I knew that the beautiful ornamental trees and the fruit trees in Minnesota are not grown from seed. The roots of these kinds of trees cannot withstand our harsh winters. So, nurseries grow tough, hardy trees with root systems that will live through the winters, then cut off the trunk and graft on a tree that will produce flowers or fruit.
What was growing on the crest of that hill was a tree that had sprung up from the tough and resilient root stock. The tree was ugly and useless, but still alive.
Meanwhile, in a more protected location in the backyard, I had planted two Honeycrisp apple trees. One was doing well, but the other had been reduced to a frayed stick by a buck deer rubbing his antlers on it. Maybe I could do some grafting myself and restore the useless crab to a fruit-producing tree.
So I studied grafting and watched videos of people doing it on the internet.
About three or four months ago, when the trees were still dormant, I cut four twigs off the good Honeycrisp, wrapped them in damp paper towels, put them in a plastic bag, and stored them in the refrigerator.
Then, when the straggly tree was just starting to bud, I took my twigs (called “scions” by people who do this) and cut the old crab off about one foot above the ground. All that was left of it was a couple of stumps. Then, following the instructions, I made a vertical slit through the bark of the stump, then carefully peeled the bark back exposing the thin layer where the tree was actively growing. I sharpened the twigs to a flat point, and inserted them into the gap I had created between the bark and the wood of the trunk. This was then wrapped with tape and the whole surgical site covered in beeswax to seal in the moisture.
I said a little prayer over my work, asking that the tree would be blessed and produce much fruit someday.
I drove past the lifeless twigs every day, constantly looking and waiting for life to burst forth.
All the other trees were full of leaves actively growing, but the twigs and the stump were lifeless.
I began to lose hope and wonder what I had done wrong.
Then, on the National Day of Prayer, as I drove past the tree as I returned form work, lo and behold, tiny green leaves were shooting out of all the twigs!
Now, it remains to be seen whether this new tree will produce fruit, but it’s alive and it has a chance!
In John 15:5, Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
Throughout my life, I have been a lot like that crab apple tree. I came to faith in Jesus as a child, but as a teenager, I strayed away and the winter of my sin killed what was growing from me. The promise of the beauty in my soul died and was replaced by a wild, straggly, drug addict.
But when I came back to him, Jesus cut off the old man and grafted on a twig of hope and joy that produces fruit in my life to this day. Now, each day holds the promise of new growth and new fruit and new joy.
Jesus is the root in me that will never die no matter the coldness of the winter that blows over me. In Him, all things are possible and without Him, I can do nothing.
Was there a winter in your life and a restoring grafting of the Holy Spirit that saved you and blessed you? Will you share your witness and your testimony here? Or, is now the winter in your life when you need to come back to Jesus and let him be your root and your source of life?
Psalm 150:6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!