One of my favorite bonsai trees is a 47-year-old Ficus tree that lives at my house.   Because of the near-freezing weather invading Central Florida, I moved it into our kitchen in recent weeks.  Ficus trees don’t like to be moved–or transplanted.  Interestingly, it has not only survived the transition but flourished.  I’ve found that regular, once-a-week water and an occasional shot of fertilizer is all that is required for these sturdy trees.

For some reason people believe–as I once did–that bonsai trees are difficult to nurture.  However, I learned through experience that they are amazingly resilient plants.  Of course, the secret to survival is their root structure.  Onlookers and gardeners observing the bonsai are generally impressed by the artful curves and sculpting of the roots which may be larger than the tree itself. 

Bonsai trees and plants are stunted by placing them in small containers.  They must be maintained or they will die; but once established, minimal care allows them to thrive.  In short, given proper, regular care, bonsai plants are hard to kill. 

As I look over the congregates of Special Gathering each week, I see many people who are the human equivalent to the bonsai plant.  Each one has his/her personal story of stunned growth and tragic circumstances.  Developmental and physical disabilities have endeavored to choke them all during their complicated, yet paradoxically simple, lives.  But their spirit man–which is what makes us human–is amazingly tough.  Stunned by the faulty containers which bound them, these men and women have grown strong, rich, interesting and beautiful root structures.  These structured masses of  roots defy the circumstances of their lives and the limitations foisted on them by their brains and bodies.   

This is one of the best gifts that these men and women bring to the church, rooted lives that understand the loving, unmoving grace of God.  Yvonne grieves for your mother who has been her constant companion for more than 50 years because her mom is suffering in the hospital.  When I asked Yvonne why she was crying, I said, “Do you miss your mom?”

Yvonne’s answer came in a whimper, “Yes, but Mom is sick.”  My concern was for Yvonne.  Her concern was for her mother’s pain.  Deep roots.

Are our members who are developmentally disabled perfect?  Of course not.  They are faulty human creatures.  But when they accept Jesus as their savior, they are perfect in his sight because of the shed blood and resurrection of  Christ.  The part we see most often is the stunted tree.  The part God sees is the magnificent root structure that allows them to flourish and thrive with minimal care and attention. 

Generally, the Church has not understood the gifts that this portion of God’s family has to offer.  Therefore, out of necessity, these men and women have driven their roots deeply and firmly into the heart of God and they are magnificent to behold and to know.