Are You Planting People in the Wrong Places?

Juniper Chinensis Hetzi

Chinese Juniper, even the small Hetzi version, grows huge … it’s not the kind of shrub to cram against a foundation.

This kind of Chinese Juniper (Hetzi) grows along the foundation of our small home, where it is much too large! Designed to grow 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide, even under the landscapers’ aggressive pruning they’ve just grown sideways and flat to the ground trying to reach their natural size. Musty moldy needles hang from tangled nests of sunless branches inside, which never drop because this is one of the sturdiest woods that grows. You might know it as Eastern redwood — the stuff from which decks and garden furniture is built.

Don’t Blame Twisted Shrubs!

It’s not the shrubs’ fault that they are growing twisted and too large and rotting at their hearts. It was the responsibility of whoever planted them to put them in a place where they would fit, instead of crowding three shrubs that grow to gigantic sizes into a space that can only accommodate three dwarf shrubs.

Are Prickly People Planted in Wrong Places?

That made me think about some people I know who “just don’t fit.” Maybe the problem isn’t that they’re twisted and prickly. Maybe the problem is that they keep being put in places not suited to them.

I suspect we got these shrubs because they were leftover from the street-side hedge. Perhaps the builder purchased a surplus on purpose, thinking that the shrubs would look beautiful at the initial sales date and wouldn’t be his problem later.

But most of us who plant things care enough to make sure that our plants get the right sun, the right soil, the right amount of water, and the right climate. We place them where they can grow as God intended them to grow and shelter them from pests.

People Need the Right Soil, Too

When I see a person who isn’t flourishing, perhaps the first thing I should check is whether they are in the right environment to grow as the person God made them to be. Are they receiving opportunities to do the good works that God has prepared in advance for them to do? Are other Christians encouraging them? Do others take encouragement from them? Who prays with and for them?

God has designed each of us to do specific works that God has prepared for us to do. (Eph. 2:9-10) When we, as the people of God, determine that the “works of God” are only this and this and this, we squeeze many glorious juniperus Hetzi, and even junipers destined for a full 60 or 80 feet, to be constantly trimmed into shrubs or even bonsai. These can be beautiful, but they grow according to the intent of man, not according to the character God has given them.

Also, “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6). Those of us who are blessed to be Christian families are called to create healthy environments in which not just our own members but those who are alone can flourish. The isolated, twisted trees that battle for survival on wind-scoured mountaintops have their own beauty and God has a reason for planting them there. But it isn’t our job to send “trees” off to do such battle. Our job is to welcome, to warm, to nourish, and to bless.




About Carlene Hill Byron

The former editor of New England Church Life and The New England Christian, Carlene Hill Byron is enjoying being home in Maine after 20 years in North Carolina. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild. Find her at, and on Facebook at MyHouseHasHistory.
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