I enjoy fables. Recently I have been rereading the book “Friedman’s Fables” by Edwin H. Friedman. This is one of those little treasures that you hear of from someone and pick up to read at your leisure, then find yourself returning to over and over again.
Today I reread this story:
AN AMERICAN HOLLY
“There was a certain holly tree whose owner, when it was very young, planted it close to the foundation of his house to shelter the tree from the icy blasts of winter. He had done right. For it is the way of young, broad-leafed evergreens to lose their vital moisture to the evaporation of winter winds.
As time went by, however, the holly grew and soon found itself competing with that which had protected it during early life. The owner, therefore, decided to let the plant have more room. Carefully, early one spring, he dug up the sprouting tree and replanted it some distance away, so that it could branch out in all directions. As with the initial planting, the owner did everything with care;, the roots were embalmed in a big ball of earth, a moat of mud surrounded the new site to keep the rainwater from running away, a deep protective blanket of the finest mulch covered the area about the slowly thickening trunk, and fertilizer, again only the finest grade, was liberally applied.
But all did not go well, despite the best intentions and the kindest care. The holly began to lose its leaves. Some were lost every year, of course, but others had always blossomed to take their place. This time the dying leaves were not replenished. Something different was at work.
Perplexed by this unexpected turn of events, the owner gave his tree more care. He borrowed some books from the library to see what he could learn. He wrote to garden experts in the newspapers. Perhaps some blight or other noxious influence had come into the area, though he had read no warnings. He frequented the best garden shops and asked old-timers what they did on such occasions.
Every question brought an answer;every question acquired more than one answer, if asked more than one time. And with each new suggestion, tale, or remedy he heard, the owner hurried back and tried anew. But nothing worked.
Each morning when the owner awoke he found more leaves had fallen to the ground. Each week another branch was dead. Should these be allowed to remain on the trunk? Can life flow again through such hardened wood? Or does the dead decay and add decay to the living nearby?”
I’m going to stop here now and ask you to reflect on this fable with me. In some ways, I see this piece as a story of life and death. Life for the holly prepared by the garden’s owner. Death by the transplant of a thriving tree. In another way I see the gospel of Christ reflected in the story and even the history of the church.
I wonder, what do you see?