lessons from the cactus


Last week I went with my sister to go visit my dad in Arizona.  It was a wonderful time in the sun and warmth and fresh air.

While on a lovely family bonding experience (the hike that I forced them to go on with me), I was mesmerized by all the cacti.  Such a unique plant that grows under the harshest of conditions.  I’m currently reading The Hidden Life of Trees which is all about how trees are like human families and they support each, communicate with each other, and even warn each other of danger.  Which got me curious about the cactus.  So I did a little research.

Here are a few facts about the saguaro cactus, a popular Arizonan cactus that only grows there (and the one pictured above)…

  • They take a very long time to grow.  In the first 8 years of a saguaro’s life, it’ll only grow between 1-1.5 inches.
  • A saguaro goes through its longest growth period transitioning from an unbranched cactus to a branched one.
  • A saguaro is usually 50-70 years old before it grows its first branch. And this is if the arm grows quickly. It may take 100 years before a saguaro can grow its first arm.  100 years.
  • A saguaro must be 35 years old before it can grow any flowers.  35 years old.

Are you picking up on a theme here?

And then I did a little more research on the actual word “cactus”.  I blame Evie’s spelling tests where she has to know what the Greek or Latin root means.  Or the Beth Moore Bible study I’m currently doing where she obsesses on the Greek or Hebrew origin of every little word.

The word “Tzabar” is the Hebrew term for a cactus.  Tzabar comes from the Arabic root “sabr” which means “patience“. Both terms are cognate to the Biblical Hebrew שבר and Aramaic / later Hebrew סבר – which mean “to see“.

I know, a lot of mumbo jumbo.  But essentially it means, “One who has patience in watching to see what will happen.”

Now you may be reading this (if you have even gotten this far with my boring facts about the cactus) and be thinking wow, what a cool coincidence. Cacti take forever to grow, forever to bloom, forever to sprout branches and cactus means patience.  Cool.

My over-analyzing serendipity sensitive Stacey brain thinks differently.  I think, wow.  Actually, I don’t think.  I cry.  I cried when I read that because I could use a little lesson in patience right now.  And I felt like part of the reason God sent me to Arizona was to learn about the cactus so that I get this little lesson.  Yes, it might be a bit of a reach, but this is how my crazy brain works, and lesson learned.  Cue parallels to faith journey here…

The cactus is a very patient plant.  Very patient.  I could learn a lot from the cactus.  I am not a very patient person.  And I do not like to just sit around and watch to see what will happen.  I’m the furthest thing from Type A, but I do like to have a plan.  I like to know what to expect.  I like to know when things are going to happen.  And I like them to happen in a timely manner.  Branches and blooms should not take forever.  But that’s not always how God works.

The cactus also grows where no other plant will grow.  It does not complain when the sun bakes it or when the wind whips it.  It stores water when it rains for the hard times to come.  It protects itself from danger, but harasses no other plant.  It enjoys solitude, perhaps even thrives in it (now that’s something I can relate to).  It trusts that God will provide, even in the heat and dessert, and that a bloom will come…even if it takes years.  More parallels to faith journey.  Boom.

So from now on I will look at that above photo and not only think about the hike I took with my dad and sister, but think about the cactus.  About patience and trust, about beauty in waiting, about how God taught me a little much needed faith lesson through this desert plant.


Michelle Brown - From one Type A to another… THANK YOU! This has been very helpful

Tracey - I LOVE THIS. I remember reading about the saguaro when we were on our way to Sedona and I was astonished at how long they took to grow. But I love the meaning of the word cactus. Praying for you and the patience you need. xoxo

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