Growing up in Iowa, I’ve seen a lot of cottonwood trees.
Having lived in Arizona, I’ve seen a lot of cactus.
Here at the lake in Texas, I’ve seen them both together.
Down the road in a neighbor’s backyard is a large cottonwood tree. About seven feet off the ground in the notch where the trunk divides, there’s a prickly pear cactus growing.
Not where you’d expect to find a cactus.
So who planted it there?
Not the homeowners.
Not raccoons who’ve been to the garden center and decided to landscape the yard. It’s a little more organic than that.
Raccoons eat the sweet fruit of the prickly pear. Then they climb up in the tree and do their business. The undigested seeds pass through and, voila! The cactus in the cottonwood has been planted.
Strange that it would be planted in this way. Stranger still that it’s growing and thriving.
The pun is intentional. It’s also a most important truth.
We can grow, even if we’re in a crappy place we never expected to be.
Maybe your company transferred you far away from your perfect place. You’ve been moved from San Diego to Sandusky and it stinks.
Maybe your spouse changed their “I do” to “I don’t” and you’re abandoned and alone.
Maybe you’ve lost everything and you’re starting life over from scratch in a season where you planned to have it made.
Maybe your dreams have been derailed by disease. Your brain says “yes” but your body says “no”.
I’ve been there. Perhaps you have, too. Those days where you dream about loading up the moving truck and going anywhere but where you are. Those weeks you tell yourself that life will resume once you’re out of this place and in a different location. Those months you feel like you’re forever on the outside looking in. Those years that pass with a dreadful slowness and no change of scenery.
How can I possibly grow here in this place?
The people of Judah were in captivity in Babylon. Far from home, it was going to be a long wait. 70 years, to be exact. That’s a long time to be in a crappy place. What did God tell them to do?
“Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens, and eat their produce…take wives and become fathers of sons and daughters…seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you unto exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf…” (Jeremiah 29:4-7)
God says, “Live your lives. Build, plant, marry, have kids, be productive citizens.”
In a word, grow.
Grow in the place you never wanted or expected to be. Why? Because God has a plan for you.
“For I know the plans I have for you. Plans for good and not calamity to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
In God’s economy, no experience is wasted. He will use your time in Sandusky. He will not let the pain of your abandonment be for free. He won’t allow disease to detract from accomplishing His purposes for your life.
If you’re planted in a place you never expected to be, purpose to grow. Because God has a plan. And it’s a good one. A plan to give you a hope and a future.
Hey, if God can take care of a cactus in a cottonwood tree, He will take care of you, too.
Purpose to grow.
“The Lord will accomplish all that concerns me; your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting.”
– Psalm 138:8
Todd A. Thompson – April 8, 2013