This is not a Christmas-is-almost-here-so-you-better-get-ready post. It’s still November, for goodness sake!!
What this post will share is a few pictures I took of cactuses (I looked it up–that’s just as acceptable as “cacti”) during our trip to Arizona earlier this month, along with what I’ve learned about them. This is no exhaustive library, just what I encountered from not-too-close!
Prickly Pear Cactus
I captured this picture of a prickly pear cactus at the first riverside camp during our kayak adventure through the canyon.
Those spines did their job, and I didn’t get too close!
Prickly pear sections are called “pads”, which can be boiled and eaten (after removing the spines, of course). The fruit is called “tuna”, and is a good source of nutrition. Both parts provide a beneficial amount of dietary fiber.
Another intimidating specimen! The large spines on the barrel cactus keep away hungry critters, while smaller spines–not visible in this picture–reflect a bit of sunlight to help keep the cactus from overheating in the desert sun.
Aw, isn’t that sweet?? We got a picture together with a saguaro just before the sun began to set.
This is the kind of cactus I always think of when I think of the desert in the southwest U.S.
This particular saguaro is OLD, perhaps taking ten years to reach its first inch in height. It’s pretty far behind us in this picture, so I’m guessing it’s at least 18 feet tall?
No matter how tall it gets, its taproot will never dig deeper than about three feet. Instead, it has many roots that grow sideways under the soil surface to anchor the cactus against strong desert winds.
Jumping Cholla Cactus
This one actually reminded me of some weeds we’ve got back home, and I’ll tell you why.
Although it’s called the jumping cactus, it doesn’t do anything so cool.
The spines on the jumping cactus attach easily to clothing (or animal noses), and when its arm separates at a joint, the broken piece hitches a ride. Wherever it finally meets the soil, it can take root and grow a new jumping cactus!
Back home we have weeds with seeds that act like velcro on our shoes, socks, and jeans. Wherever they get picked off and thrown, up springs a new baby weed. But they’re nowhere as painful looking as these jumping cactus spines!
And the moral of the story is . . .
God created many more kinds of cactus than the four I shared, each with a special design and purpose. He also created people who have grown prickly spines to protect themselves from relational pain. It’s not his plan for them, but through life’s heartaches it’s who they’ve grown to be.
Followers of Jesus have been commanded to live in love, and to even love their enemies. Here’s a great definition of what love is:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.1 Corinthians 13:4-6 NLT
It sounds wonderful, until you think about when it’s required.
- Patience isn’t needed until things aren’t going your way, as quickly as you would like them to.
- Kindness is easy when others are being kind, but what about whey they’re not?
- Love doesn’t “demand its own way” implies that folks aren’t seeing eye to eye on what’s important. Love gives way and compromises on what doesn’t really matter anyway.
- Irritability arises when folks don’t act the way we want them to. Love lets it go.
Just as each type of cactus has something that sets it apart, so too do grumpy, prickly people. They’re not all the same! Don’t be super quick to give up and write them off. There’s usually a treasure trove of goodness just waiting to be discovered if you have the patience to carefully learn how to avoid the spines.
The next verse says it well:
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.1 Corinthians 13:7
I pray you discover treasure this week, friends!