Handkerchief Tree photo from Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Do you get the feeling that society is becoming too impatient?

We seem to expect instant results these days: immediate responses to our texts or emails, same-day delivery for things we order, instantaneous loading of videos or web pages. In fact, a study showed that a YouTube video that loads slowly will start losing viewers after two seconds.

The problem is that sometimes our impatience with technology gets applied to people, too. We expect people to change quickly, and if they don’t, we lose patience with them and give up on them.

This reminds me of the tale of the handkerchief tree.

Called the dove tree in its native China, it became known to Western visitors in the late 1800s, who were entranced by it. The handkerchief tree features stunning white bracts surrounding its flowers, which resemble doves, ghosts or fluttering handkerchiefs, hence its name in the West.

European botanists in China collected the seeds and brought them back home, keen to grow such a gorgeous tree. One gardener planted the seeds, but was disappointed to find after a year that they hadn’t sprouted into seedlings. Figuring that the seeds must be no good, he discarded them by dumping them onto his compost pile, then forgot about them.

To his surprise, two years later he saw a bunch of seedlings on the compost pile. They were from the handkerchief tree. They had sprouted after all!

What he didn’t know was that seeds of the handkerchief tree have what’s called a “double dormancy”: they require two years to germinate, unlike most seeds which will sprout within the first year.

He had written them off too soon.

Don’t we do the same with people sometimes?

We get frustrated with friends or loved ones who clearly need to make some changes in their lives, but don’t seem to be making any progress. We think, “Why do I bother with them? They’ll never change.” And we’re tempted to give up on them.

But maybe we need to be patient and extend more grace to them. Just like some seeds need a longer period to sprout, some people need more time than others to come to the point of giving their lives to God. Let’s not be too hasty in writing people off. Let’s give them another chance.

Once the handkerchief tree has sprouted, there’s still more waiting in store. The tree may not put forth its gorgeous blooms for as many as ten years, and perhaps up to fifteen years. It’s well worth the wait, because it’s a very special tree.

Antique clock photo by Wallpaper Flare

But how many of us are willing to keep patiently sowing into other people’s lives when year after year we’re not seeing a harvest? We ought to persevere, though, because Scripture tells us that some things are going to take a bit more time:

“Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6:9 CSB)

“So be patient, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s return. Think of how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the ground and is patient for it until it receives the early and late rains.” (James 5:7 NET)

“But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!” (Habakkuk 2:3 TLB)

We should also remember how patient God has been with us over the years. So let’s be forgiving of others, and keep doing good to them. Let’s not write them off too soon. We may see something very special happen in their lives if we persevere.

For like the seeds of the handkerchief tree, some of us just need a bit more time!

© 2020 Lori J. Cartmell. All rights reserved.

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