Blog: The Chaplain's Chirps

Cultivating Family

03/12/2018 in by Giovanna Heron   () comments

The Miracle of the Chinese Bamboo Tree

“After the seed for this amazing tree is planted, you see nothing, absolutely nothing, for four years except for a tiny shoot coming out of a bulb. During those four years, all the growth is underground in a massive, fibrous root structure that spreads deep and wide in the earth. But then in the fifth year the Chinese bamboo tree grows up to eighty feet!

Many things in family life are like the Chinese bamboo tree. You work and you invest time and effort, and you do everything you can possibly do to nurture growth, and sometimes you don’t see anything for weeks, months, or even years. But if you’re patient and keep working and nurturing, that “fifth year” will come, and you will be astonished at the growth and change you see taking place.

Patience is faith in action. Patience is emotional diligence. It’s the willingness to [wait] so that others can grow. It reveals love. It gives birth to understanding. Even as we become aware of our suffering in love, we learn about ourselves and our own weaknesses and motives.”

*This reflection on the Chinese Bamboo Tree was written by Stephen R. Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families.

Family! – It’s tough to navigate through it sometimes, even in the best of families. They can keep you stuck, or they can push you too much; they can bring out the best in you, or the worst; you can be enmeshed, or completely cut off. Whatever it is, this group of people that you are born into (or marry into), affect so many aspects of your life. Even in therapy, it is difficult at times to provide individual counselling because the progress or change a person can make on their own, can be counteracted by the family dynamic.

Stories about family in the Bible are not so far off from our own. For Abraham and Sarah, the difficulty of not having a child led to hasty decisions and integrating Hagar into their anxiety. This led to tension and Hagar being thrown out, twice! and brought back twice. Think of Joseph who was sold by his brothers as a slave and taken to a foreign land. And what about Moses, who grew up in an adopted family and ran away partly because of his inner turmoil at seeing his own people being mistreated. Or Naomi, who lost her husband and both her sons within 10 years. Her grief and loss led to feelings of bitterness, and she felt as if God had turned His hand against her.

In our culture of autonomy and the importance of “me”, it can be hard to live in the “we”. In family, there is “we”. The waiting, and the patience, and the work required for family to thrive can be hard. But even in the convoluted nature of family there can be good growth underground if God is in the process. Despite what happened with Abraham, both his sons were together with him and buried him after his passing; and God blessed Hagar. Joseph became a high official in Egypt and he was good to his brothers after they were reunited. Moses led his people out of Egypt. And Naomi’s daughter-in-law Ruth stayed with her and they eventually formed a new family. It doesn’t always end so well. Even if it does end well, there is still heartache along the way, but good things can be created out of dust. The “fifth year” will come and the growth can be worth the wait.



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