William H Hammes
The Ficus Benjamina
The phone rang as the Lord said it would. I went back to work and it was going well, but for whatever reason, the depression still lingered. It wasn’t nearly as bad but just enough to know things were not completely right. Though the allegories told me what the Lord was intending to do, I never knew if it actually did, and if it did, how did it correlate. The answer came one morning and it was spectacular!
I woke up still in a funk. It was my birthday, I was now 36 and still alone and not currently dating anyone. Even my mother had given up on me by this time. I remember climbing into the truck to go to work. As I pulled away from the curb I noticed it was very dark for 5:30. That is because it wasn’t 5:30, it was 3:30! Boy was I a mess! I turned around, went back in the house and sat down on the couch. I prayed a simple prayer. “Lord, what is going on?”
My eyes fell upon a small Ficus Benjamina in a pot by the back door. A thought came to mind and I knew it was the Lord speaking to me. “Do you remember this plant’s little brother? Do you remember its history?”
When I first moved to Oxnard I was living in a 35 foot travel trailer that was built in 1955. It was a mess, but I completely remodeled it and it came out spectacular. I furnished it with two Ficus Benjamina house plants. I eventually sold the trailer to buy a mobile home. I then sold that to buy a house on J Street. These two little plants went everywhere I went.
The plants stayed small, about three feet tall. Eventually one of these plants started getting sick. It was down to two leaves with one turning yellow. I heard that if you plant a Ficus outside, it can really grow. So, I planted it in front of my living room window, and it took off. Within a year it was six feet tall and very bushy.
It was getting so big that I knew I had to move it. Unfortunately, it was planted next to the gas and water pipes going into the house, making it difficult to get it out without killing it. Even though it was a long shot if it would live, I knew I first had to prune it. I wacked the heck out of it! Limb after limb, branch after branch, until there was barely anything left that still had leaves. I thought if it grew, it would look good in front of my new master bedroom. I was planning on building a courtyard around it.
When I planted it, I did everything right, the right planting mix, fertilizer, and being in Oxnard, it had the best soil in the world. Even with all of that, within days all of the leaves dried up and turned brown. I was heartbroken. After a few months, I went out to dig it up and throw it away, but to my surprise, there were still two leaves left. And just as before, one was turning yellow. I decided to let it be, but if that yellow leaf fell off, out it goes. The yellow leaf never fell off, so I left it alone. For over six months that tree stayed with just the two leaves. The neighbors were all asking, “Bill, you have such a beautiful house, why do you keep that dead tree in the front of it?”
I had to admit it seemed a little silly. So, I went to pull it out, but to my surprise it had new growth. Just a few tiny leaves and only on one branch, but a promise is a promise. I left it there. A few more months went by and it started to grow nicely.
Now, back to 3:30 in the morning:
I was surprised how much I remembered about that little tree. Then, the Lord started speaking: “I am now going to explain all that I was doing to you by using that little tree as an illustration. When I first called you, I planted you in a small church. That church started to go, and so did you, to a point. For most, that church would be perfect, but not for you. You became root bound, stifled in your eagerness to grow spiritually. So, for a season, I took you out of My church and planted you in My garden.”
At this time I had moved across the street from Dr. Bud Denner. In the early 60’s the Lord teamed Doctor Denner up with Dennis Bennet to get 70 Episcopal priests filled with the Holy Spirit and jumped started the Charismatic movement. I was now attending his bible studies.
The Lord continued. “Under Doctor Bud Denner, you were filled with My Spirit and grew. I was so proud of you. But in the process, you acquired a prideful spirit. You became boastful of what I had given you, even arrogant.
It was time to move you again and in the process I would deal with your prideful spirit. If you weren’t so arrogant about what I had given you, the move would have been easy. However, just as the young Ficus had rooted itself around the pipes, your pride made it very difficult for me to move you. As you had to prune the young Ficus, I had to prune you. First was ‘the cord of three strands.” My girlfriend at the time and her best friend were very tight. We called ourselves ‘the cord of three strands.’ That cord snapped, and I lost both my girlfriend and my best friend.
“The next limb to go, was your work, then your finances. Finally, I took away your bible study and any outside Christian fellowship. Everything that was an obstacle to Me I broke. Everything except for one thing that I left to keep you humble. Upon My moving you, as with the Ficus turning completely brown, everything in you crashed and you felt like that Ficus. You were covered over and sealed in a thick depression, not unlike The Field of Plastic. Though you still had everyone around you, I kept you isolated. It made you unable to explain to anyone what was happening to you or how you felt. Though you hated it, it was then that I was doing My best work. Now that this season of turmoil has passed, I want you to get up and go out and see what that Ficus tree looks like now.”
I got up, went out to the master bedroom courtyard and look up at the tree. Yes, I had to look up at it. You know how you can plant something and pass by it every day and not notice it? I knew it was growing, and it was getting bigger, but when I looked at it this time my jaw dropped! It was now over fourteen feet tall, and completely covered the courtyard. It was so thick with branches and leaves that I could not see the street light shining through it! The fringe of daylight was just breaking on the horizon behind it, making it one of the most beautiful things I ever saw. The Lord spoke one more time. “My son, if you trust Me this will be you.”