George Bowers Sr. Little things add up

George Bowers Sr.

I love this time of year! The spring flowers are in full bloom, the grass is emerald green, and the birds are bedecked in their finest feathers. Even the trees are blooming to attract pollinators necessary to produce seeds, fruits, and nuts and the recent rains have accelerated the beautification of our valley.

Other things also emerge with the new growth of spring. Depending on the temperatures, many species of caterpillars begin to hatch from long dormant eggs with voracious appetites that just won’t be satisfied. God has timed their appearance to coincide with the fresh green leaves made all the more delectable by the absence of resistant surface cuticles that develop later as the leaves mature.

While many of these pre-butterflies are relatively harmless, a few can severely injure or even kill trees. The invasive gypsy moth is one of the worst that will arrive in a few weeks gobbling up fresh oaks, maples and other greenery. Periodic infestations can be so severe as to actually kill thousands of acres of forests at a time.

Another species that many orchardists are familiar with is the tent caterpillar. These tiny guys hatch out and begin scouring the branches for anything green. Amazingly, they cooperatively use their spinnerets to create white silk tents which provide shelters for the writhing masses. How they collaborate to accomplish this work without a foreman, architect or engineer is one of God’s secrets for they are quite skilled builders.

A single caterpillar, whether gypsy moth or tent, is relatively harmless. Although he or she may have a big appetite, the entire animal is very small and can hardly consume much leaf material at all. Problems develop, however, when they mass together. One hundred caterpillars can begin to inflict some serious damage, and thousands are even worse. Consider that some infestations number in the millions on individual trees and one can understand why fruit growers apply control agents.

Most trees can recover with little permanent damage from a single defoliation, but it’s important not to dismiss the setback it can cause. Imagine being a tree, putting all your spring energy into getting your new leaves out there early to start collecting sunlight to fuel photosynthesis, only to be frustrated by a mass of munchers. Much worse, however, are repeated episodes that can have serious long term impacts. Not only do they suck the life out of the plant, but they also affect tree growth and eventually fruit production as well.

So too, in our lives, most of us can handle one or two crises from time to time. Occasionally, we are called to manage several at once and although it is challenging, we can usually make it through. Things become more serious, however, when stressors accumulate and persist. As more and more circumstances impact our souls, eventually a toll is taken and our life gets sucked out. Without some help or assistance, such pressures are certain to negatively affect our spiritual fruit production and can ultimately result in mental illness or even death.

For this reason, it is important to be aware of our brothers and sisters around us, perhaps as fellow trees in life’s orchard. Although stress isn’t as easy to detect as white caterpillar tents, there are some warning signs that can tip us off. Changes in eating or sleeping habits, erratic behavior, and depressed moods or attitudes that persist can all signal a friend under attack. Whenever we sense such symptoms, it’s important to come to their aid and be with them through their crises.

We may not be able to remove all the factors that stress them, but we can refresh their souls with kind words, encouragement, prayer, and love. These can keep others strong and well-nourished even while battling a serious infestation and can help them bounce back more quickly once the worst is past.

Little things add up and need to be addressed. Failure to do so can result in negative consequences that affect us all. Let’s be aware of our own leaves and limbs and let’s also keep an eye on those of our friends and loved ones as well. In the meantime, enjoy the spring beauty and thank its creator! In Jesus, George

George Bowers Sr. is the senior pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren and has authored 10 books including his latest, “Valley Verses, Volume IV,” which is available at Four Star Printing and Shenandoah Stuff. He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at gabowers@shentel.net.