The Miracle of the Redbud

One of the most dramatic bits of flora in the Texas springtime is the redbud tree. While a there are a wide variety of plants that break forth into profligate bloom around this time of year, warming up with scales sung in pale green and eventually bursting full voice into florid arias of blue, purple, crimson, and orange, the redbud takes a different approach. It bides its time through the winter as all its leaves fall off, leaving only a skeletal disordered collection of sticks, looking for all the world as though you could break them down into kindling with a single swift kick or swipe of your fist.

When spring comes, the redbud doesn’t succumb to the pressure of its peers and sprout green. Rather, it skips photosynthesis altogether and bursts directly into extravagant bloom, its namesake buds festooning all the upper branches, shooting up, down, sideways. Because even amid all of this growth there’s still not a single leaf to be seen, it looks more like some kind of delightfully overenthusiastic elementary school project — crepe paper glued onto a badly-tied bundle of sticks your four-year-old child found on the playground — than it does a real tree.

These trees put me in mind of the Old Testament story about the sprouting of Aaron’s staff. When some of the Israelites were questioning Moses and Aaron’s leadership, God had each of the tribes bring a staff to the tent where they worshipped and leave them there overnight, telling the people that the staff of the man God chose to lead would sprout during the night. When morning came, Aaron’s rod had not only sprouted, but, as if to drive the point home, had also put forth buds, flowered, and produced ripe almonds. (This staff, along with the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed and a jar of manna, were later kept in the Ark of the Covenant.)

Thus, while all the glory of spring is a delightful affirmation of life, the sprouting of the redbud’s blossoms from these apparently dead bundles of sticks reminds me even more specifically of God’s involvement with and favor for his people. Selah.