Years ago, when I first saw a magnolia in flower, I decided that one day we would plant a magnolia tree in our garden. I even researched the cost and thought seriously about it when we lived in Bedford. I'm not a great gardener. Most of the time it's Anne who potters around the garden cutting the grass and weeding the borders. I like sitting in the garden, and I don't mind growing the odd vegetable, but time has always seemed to mitigate against becoming deeply involved with the soil.
Earlier this week I visited our new home to meet the builder and discuss the work that needs to be done. The house officially becomes our in a week's time and there's a good month's work to be done. Rewiring, new kitchen and bathroom, a little remedial work on the extension and lots of decorating. Hopefully it will all be done in April ready for moving at the beginning of May.
The new garden is a little overgrown and, at about 150ft, quite long. I wandered down the garden to stare at the view across the open fields, which was very peaceful indeed. But here's the thing. About a third of the way down the garden on the left-hand side is a white magnolia tree. Because we looked at the house before Christmas and only went in late January/early February to have a good look at what needed doing, I didn't spot the tree, even if I had the ability to recognise it without the characteristic flowers.
So two days ago I got the surprise of my life to see this wonderful tree in full bloom. It needs a trim, but there it was. A good frost and all the flowers will be gone. It's even possible that Anne won't see it in flower until next year if the weather turns over the next week. But it will still be there!
I'm not sure how I felt when I saw the tree. Was it a sign of God's blessing or his sense of humour? Do I really need to read anything into it at all? It was just there. Part of God's amazing creativity as are the ivies growing through the hedge and covering a concrete post and the apples strewn across the grass from the apple tree that needs pruning and the weeds growing up between the different surfaces of the drive. None of those drew my attention in the way that the magnolia did, but that doesn't make them any less significant.
Perhaps the point of all this is that the magnolia will always be a wonderful sight when in flower, but a lot of the time it will be a tree without flowers. And without paying attention to all the other plants, wanted and unwanted, in the garden, eventually the magnolia will be hidden. Choked out by ivy and other fast growing and pernicious flora.
Do my gifts get choked out by weeds too? Does the glory of what God has called me to be and to do get overshadowed by the unattended stuff around me? Self-agrandisment is not pretty. This is not about self-promotion. It is about examining my life and paying attention to that which needs to be done in order to maintain a healthy relationship with God and an availability to serve him with all that I have. I can't make God love me more, but I can affect my usefulness, my availability. I can choose to nurture my life for the glory of God.
And when all of that reflecting becomes a little self-indulgent, well at least I'll have my magnolia tree to look at!