Looking out the window here at The Faith Cafe, you see that the trees in the park display a stark beauty.
Stripped of their leaves in winter, they stand amid the snow looking rather barren and forlorn.
But a funny thing happens when a tree has lost its leaves: you can see things that you didn’t know were there before.
Going for a walk in your neighbourhood in winter, you might see that the bare trees are now revealing things that had been concealed by summer’s foliage. You might be surprised to see a bird’s nest the size of a teacup nestled in the bare branches; you’d passed beneath it dozens of times without knowing it was right above you.
Or you might see a larger nest, called a drey, which was built by squirrels. You’d had no idea that the squirrels had been raising a family there in their hidden home, perhaps in a tree just feet from your own house.
With the trees denuded of leaves, you might spot a kite or balloon that had been caught in the branches months before. Only winter could reveal this lost object. Maybe it belonged to your child: “So that’s where it went!” you think.
Or you realize that there are dead branches in some of the trees around your house that need removing. You can only see the problem now that the dense foliage has been stripped away.
So it is with us, too.
Sometimes there are things we can only see when we hit a barren season in our lives, brought on by a loss, a breakup, a setback, or a disappointment. Sometimes it’s only when something has been stripped away from us that other things are revealed.
Can the monstera houseplant teach us something about our faith in God?
This plant, nicknamed the Swiss cheese plant, has become hugely popular in recent times. Much sought after, it has risen to the status of an icon among houseplant aficionados.
But besides being a fun plant to grow indoors, is there anything we can learn from the monstera? Can its example help us grow spiritually?
I believe that just about everything in the natural world can teach us something that can deepen our faith. I like how Ralph Waldo Emerson put it: “Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact.”
And the monstera is no exception!
Here are 5 things this special and beloved plant can teach us:
Sometimes nature can be a bit unpredictable—things happen in an order we wouldn’t expect.
Normally, plants put forth leaves long before they produce flowers.
But some trees and shrubs flip the script, so to speak.
With certain plants, the normal sequence is reversed: the flowers come first, before the leaves have developed.
A good example is the beautiful redbud tree. It puts forth gorgeous pink flowers on its bare branches in early spring, when none of its leaves are yet in sight.
The forsythia shrub bears its bright yellow flowers in advance of its leaves, and the lovely magnolia presents its pink or white blooms before the green foliage appears. Some maples and oaks also exhibit this flower-first behaviour, although with less showy blossoms.
All of these plants give us a treat in springtime when we’re starved for colour. We get the flower first without having to wait for the leaves.
Why do some plants reverse the normal order of things?
Some trees are wind-pollinated, so put forth flowers before their bulky leaves get in the way. The same goes for flowers that need extra sunlight. Other plants produce a mass of conspicuous flowers first, unobscured by leaves, to better attract the attention of pollinating insects.
Did you know that God also flipped the script and gave us the flower first, so to speak?
If you live in an region where the trees drop their leaves in the fall, you’ll have noticed something.
Some species of trees are quick to cast off their leaves once the weather turns colder. In my area, the mountain ash trees are always the first to be denuded of leaves in October.
Other trees seem more reluctant to give up their leafy attire, holding on stubbornly until the frost and the wind finally make them release their grip. In my backyard, an old sugar maple is usually the laggard.
The most notorious holdouts, however, are immature beech trees. They retain their dried leaves through the whole winter, only dropping them when the new growth of spring finally forces the old leaves off the branches.
We can be a bit like young beech trees, too, I think.
We may hold on too long to something that isn’t working, despite evidence that we should let it go.
Or we may cling to a dream that is clearly unrealistic, even though God is trying to nudge us in a different direction.
Sometimes God is telling us that it’s time to turn over a new leaf, so to speak. He wants us to cast off outmoded ways of thinking and let go of unproductive ways of doing things.