The Mango Tree

We were gifted with an unexpected slow afternoon in the Dominican Republic.  Our Group Ministry team headed to Paradise Island for a little fun in the sun and team bonding.  We are at the Mak House (where we host our teams) because Scottie and Zoey are sick. I parked myself outside of their room with my Bible, journal, calendar, book, phone, and computer.  My plan was to have some intentional time to be still. To read the Bible. To journal. To catch up on podcast episodes. To finish reading the book, The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman (buy it and read it!!!).  In between doing these things, I would check temperatures.  Refresh the washcloths. Hold their hair back while they throw up.  Adjust the fans. Mother my babies.

Sitting, I find myself staring at a large mango tree in the backyard.  I cannot stop thinking about this beautiful tree. I turn to Scott and ask him questions: How do you think they get the mangos down from that tree?  (It’s so tall and they aren’t using ladders.) Do mangos just fall when they are ripe? Did you notice that the mango tree is one of the largest trees in the yard?  I told him several times that I really think there is a lesson in that tree. Scott looks at me and says, “Maybe you should blog about it.” Ok. He may just be trying to shut me up, so he can move on to his work because he was actively working on the computer when I began my tirade of questions.  He knows his wife and when my brain gets hooked on something, there must be a reason. He also knows that I process things best when I write about them.

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Some initial observations about this beautiful mango tree:

It is beautiful.  Shady. Interesting large leaves.  The branches aren’t as thick as an oak tree would be so climbing it to the top isn’t going to happen. Gorgeous solid trunk.  The fruit is large. I can easily see them hanging in small clusters. The fruit covers the tree from the top branches to the bottom branches.  The fruit just hangs there. Slowly riping.

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A couple of days ago, my friend Jacque, Scott and I were watching Scottie play in the backyard.  She wanted a mango but was unable to reach it. It was hanging just above her head, and she made a small attempt to jump for it. Knowing she needed some help, Scott got up and walked towards her.  Before she saw him, she looked down and saw a tennis racquet laying on the ground (not sure why it was there). She picked it up, hit the branch causing the mango to fall, and reached down and grabbed the fruit.  Jacque laughed and said, “She’s going to be a Dominican kid before we know it!” (Full disclosure: Scottie wanted the mango because she wanted to throw it at the neighboring cows).

Scottie saw the mango.  Wanted the mango. Reached for the mango, but it was out of reach.  Then she problem-solved and used the resources around her and knocked that mango down.

Lesson learned.  Sometimes we see the fruit and if all we do is half-heartedly attempt to reach the fruit, we will miss out on getting the fruit.  We will miss the pleasure of eating the fruit. Action folks. Sometimes we have to take action and grab what God dangles in front of us.  

But here I stare at this massive mango tree.  There is so much fruit. And most of that fruit is out of reach for any human.  What on earth are we supposed to do in order to reach that fruit?

Wait.  Wait for it to ripen.  Wait for nature to do what it is going to do.  Wait for the fruit cluster to be just heavy enough that it falls.  Wait for the rain. Wait for it to be ready. The action needed in this case is to wait and watch.

Make your ways known to me, LORD;
Teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
For you are the God of my salvation;
I WAIT for you all day long
— Psalm 25:4-6
I WAIT for the LORD;
I WAIT and put my hope in his word.
— Psalm 130:5

I continue to study this tree.  I notice that because of its size it has become a place of shade for the roosters and cows.  They gather under the tree because it provides much needed shade from the harsh Caribbean sun.  

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I will dwell in your tent forever
And take refuge under the shelter of your wings
— Psalm 61:4
I am at rest in God alone;
My salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I will never be shaken
— Psalm 62:1-2

Lesson learned.  As we wait for the fruit to fall, perhaps we are called to gather beneath the shade so that we can be protected.  Sheltered. Comforted. Refreshed. Maybe the experiences we have under the tree are the very events that will shape us.  Mold us. And perhaps the people we meet in the shade are our future mentors, teachers, disciples, and co-laborers. I need to take a good look around in the shade and savor my time there, not wishing it away.

Rest in God alone, my soul
For my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I will not be shaken.
My slavation and glory depends on God,
My strong rock.
My refuge is in God
Trust in him at all times, your people; pour out our hearts before him.
God is our refuge.
— Psalm 62:5-8

Discovering my need for purpose and ministry in the Dominican Republic has been on my mind the last four weeks.  As I stare at this mango tree, I am reminded that there is much fruit to pick. If the fruit is hanging on the low branch, I need to really reach for it.  I must take action and use the giftedness and talents that God has already given me. But what if the fruit is hanging on an upper branch? Perhaps during this period of waiting for the fruit to fall, I should just run to the shade and hang out with the roosters and the cows!  I need to trust that if it is a time of waiting, it is because God wants to provide me with some much needed shade. He is preparing me for what is to come. And the waiting… the rest… is part of the journey.

I think this mango tree and I are going to have a beautiful, long journey together.