Reflections on Baobabs

by Christine Sine
Screenshot 2023 10 25 at 9.55.12 PM

by Barbie Perks

Yesterday I spent a good amount of time thinking on baobab trees as we were driven through the Ruaha National Park in Tanzania. It is the dry, hot and dusty season and it was 35ºC in the shade. There wasn’t a single baobab with leaves or fruit on it. It only buds, flowers and fruits in the wet season which is from late November to around March. Even though the tree looks dead, it is very much alive because it has a very long tap root that reaches deep for nourishment.

These remarkable trees provide sustenance to elephants in the dry season in a very self-sacrificial manner.  Their trunks are spongy, storing up water which the elephant can get to by using its tusks to gouge strips of the baobab bark off, which it then eats – juicy provision! The tree, although damaged, heals itself, and in fact seems to grow wider as time goes by. The scars remain and are quite symbolic of the elephant population. 

Bees also settle in the trunk, and honey gatherers will poke holes into the tree to siphon off the honey. Hornbills create nests in the trunk as well. In some cases, people have hacked holes into the tree to hide either themselves, or contraband (think poachers). 

 Some trees we saw, you could see right through a hole in the trunk. In all these cases, the baobab has proved quite resilient, and just slowly heals itself and continues to provide what it can – that seems to be the nature of a baobab.

As I thought on these baobabs, loving their different shapes and sizes, I was reminded that we too can be like them. We grow and nurture those around us as needed. Sometimes we are hurt and scarred by those we seek to nurture. Sometimes it is life and its varied circumstances that damage us. Sometimes it’s the death of a loved one that leaves a hole inside of us. And yet, because of the faith we have, we continue to grow and reach out to others. We continue to support, to nurture those around us even when it is difficult. We can go through dry seasons when it seems there is no life in us but then the rain comes. Even a little shower can take the dust off and freshen us up. A good season of rainfall can set us up to continue ministering and serving in the church or community where God has placed us. 

I think it’s wonderful how God uses nature to teach us truths about himself or ourselves. Some scriptures to help us reflect on trees are Psalm 1:1-3, Revelation 22:14, Isaiah 61:3, Joel 1:11-12 and the promise in Joel 2:22-25, Jeremiah 17:8, Habakkuk 3:17-18.

As you go about your day, look at the trees around you and thank God for how they nurture you.

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