When I was stationed at Camp Zama, Japan, I noticed we had a wonderful assortment of flowering trees.
The cherry tree stands out among them all. In very late March to very early April, these trees explode in fluffy pink blossoms all over post—in fact, all over Japan.
Among the flowering trees at this time of the year, there were also a few camellias. Camellias are small, shrub-like trees with thick waxy leaves and rose-like flowers. These flowers last quite a bit longer than the cherry blossom. But that’s no credit to the camellia. The cherry’s blossoms stay on the tree only long enough to display their beauty at their zenith. Then, after only a week, their pedals gracefully float to the ground like delicate snowflakes.
The camellia’s flowers differ in two significant ways. First, when the camellia’s flowers begin to fade, most do not let go of the tree. They tenaciously cling to the tree even though their healthy bright pink has turned to a sickly brown. The result is that they give the tree an overall ugly appearance. They cling to the tree but no longer contribute anything to its appearance. Unfortunately, another characteristic of the camellia is that many of its brightest and fullest flowers fall to the ground prematurely—while they still have much beauty to give.
Flowers that cling to the tree too long and flowers that drop from the tree too soon! This reminds me of two common personalities in our organizations. On the one hand, there are individuals and leaders who cling to the organization and their positions long after their usefulness is past. Instead of contributing to the organization, they detract and become more of an impediment than an asset. Sometimes their reasons are self-serving. Some are simply self-deceived about their importance to the organization. The result is always the same—they do little for the benefit of the whole.
On the other hand, there are leaders and individuals in our organizations who have the opposite problem. They are those who drop out too soon because they underestimate their own abilities and importance. Perhaps they are plagued with self-doubt, inhibited by a lack of assertiveness, or paralyzed by a fear of failure. But the end result is that they quit before their prime and their talents go unutilized. They could contribute immensely more to the organization, but defer too often to the wishes of others who are far less gifted and wise. In the end, not only do they go unfulfilled but the organization misses out on their gifts and talents.
Do we fit into either of these categories? The faded flower that clings to the tree for its own purposes or the bright and full flower who quits before its prime? Each of us has the responsibility to make a sober self-assessment—not to think too highly or too lowly of ourselves (Romans 12:4) and then understand that it is our obligation—for the good of the organization—to step forward and make our contribution or to step back and allow others to make theirs. “Let all things be done for the benefit and edification of the whole” (1 Corinthians 14:26).
Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen.