July 20, 2009

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many…[I]n fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be…so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 1 Corinthians 12:14, 18, 25

Water and mangrove trees are two prominent natural elements in southeastern Florida’s Biscayne National Park. About 95% of the park is water, while the mangrove forest that hugs the shoreline is the largest such undeveloped stretch on the East Coast.

Even up to the 1960s, mangroves were considered almost worthless. The trees were ruthlessly cleared out to make way for harbors and houses, their wood used to create charcoal.

Now, though, mangroves are appreciated just as and where they are. Without these sturdy guardians, hurricanes would be even more destructive as they moved inland. Their tangled and strange-looking root system filters out silt and pollutants so Biscayne Bay remains sparkling clear. The roots also trap the mangrove leaves, which helps stabilize the shore and feed the tiny animals that find shelter there, who in turn become nourishment for other marine life and birds. Mangroves, it seems, aren’t nuisances at all, but necessary and vital links in the food chain and the ecosystem.

I admit I sometimes look at people the same way we used to look at mangroves. I fume or shake my head over their lazy ways, their personality rubs me the wrong way, they’re odd and disagreeable…well, you get the picture (I’m sure I’m never like that, any more than you are, right? Okay, let’s not even go there…) Anyway, I secretly—and occasionally even out loud—wish those other people would pull their own weight, clean up their dysfunctional lives, stop being so rude, or just go away and bother somebody else.

Am I touching a nerve here? Believe me, I’m squirming even as I write!

I sure wish life could always be as delightful as the morning I spent on gorgeous Biscayne Bay, gliding past the mangroves, watching the dolphins frolic, the sun shining on my face, all the while plotting how I could buy my own boat and spend every weekend lolling on Boca Chita Key.  Unfortunately, the crowded harbor and the accompanying diesel engine fumes, not to mention too many others with the same idea, all producing a lot of trash on the tiny spit of land, spoiled my idyllic dream.

I’m often guilty of looking at the world’s flaws instead of its beauty. How easily I can dismiss God’s best work—people—who are much more important in His sight than even the most awesome national park.

Every one of us gets on somebody’s nerves (me too, if I’m totally honest with myself). For some reason, God knits together a ragtag bunch of messy humans for His purposes, and then actually expects us to put up with each other—even the ones we feel serve no purpose than to make life difficult. On such an outrageous premise is the food chain and ecology of the church established: by caring for the “least of these”—and that may even include us at times—we serve Christ and proclaim his glory.

Lord, help me value the mangroves in my life…especially when I’m one of them.


  1. Beth Waring says:

    Very well-put. With the fast-paced life of New England, I often find myself feeling impatient with others and I often react poorly, especially when driving. I love the analogy of the mangrove you used in your blog. So simple and eloquent. Thank you for providing some scripture to ponder and feed us spiritually. Your blog is an inspiration and challenge daily to live a Christ-like existence.

  2. Penny says:

    April, that is a great story! I can see why it’s your favorite post. And Ernie is a cute lil bird!

    Beth, thanks for the encouragement. Oh yeah, driving around this area is a real test of faith…

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