One of the first things I noticed was the massive amount of cacti. I couldn’t believe how many shapes, sizes, and colors a cactus could come in. There were cacti coming out the wazoo and they were beautiful! I was on vacation in Arizona and this Wisconsin girl was smitten by the ruggedly wild beauty all around me.
It didn’t take me long to notice something important – so important that I immediately wrote a note reminding myself to write about it when I got home. What was this great revelation? Broken cacti. I was intrigued by the numerous large cacti being held up and reinforced by ropes and strong pieces of wood. I have to admit that I wondered why anyone would bother. There were so many cacti and it must have been a prickly job to try to fix them.
Throughout the week I spent on vacation I learned a few things and came home with a new appreciation for the saguaro cactus. Saguaro cacti are the tall, iconic plants that live in the desert of southern Arizona. As the cacti get older they grow branches, or arms, that typically grow toward the sky. It takes an incredibly long time for cacti to grow their recognizable arms. They grow straight and tall for at least 75 years before they start to grow their first arm, often longer. They’re not fully grown until they’re a couple hundred years old!
Since the water-filled cacti are so heavy, sometimes a section will break off. Instead of disposing of it, if at all possible, it’s saved. If caught early on it can be grafted back onto the plant. If it’s too late for that, the broken part can be replanted to grow as a new cactus. I saw bandaged cacti that left an impression on me.
If I took one thing away from my trip to Arizona it was this: broken cacti are still highly valued. A cactus may be broken, but great care will be taken to support and reinforce it – to heal it. It’s kind of like us and God.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like a broken cactus. When my sickness takes over it’s easy to become hopeless. I think of Job’s words in Job 17:11 (NLT), “My days are over. My hopes have disappeared. My heart’s desires are broken.” There are times when I feel like that. I’m broken; my good days are over; my hopes have disappeared; my heart’s desires are broken. I think that if this is true, God might as well throw me out.
But you know what? God highly values me. He highly values you too. I may be broken, you may be broken, but we’re priceless in His eyes. Psalm 147:3,5 (ESV) tells us that “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. … Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure.”
God understands our pain, yet He doesn’t want to throw us out and start over, He wants to heal us. He wants to bind up our wounds, grafting us into Himself or replanting us and helping us grow again. This is a beautiful thing, and it’s going to leave a scar. Grafting causes a scar, a visible wound around the healing. Replanting leaves a scar on either side of the broken piece, a visible wound around the healing.
But here’s the thing, scars are beautiful. Scars scream “Survivor!” and remind the world that we have lived through something incredibly difficult, yet we’re still here. We’re overcomers and our scars prove it. Physical scars, mental scars, emotional scars – we’ll probably have them all. But the scars mean we’ve healed. In time the scars can grow smaller, but they’ll always be there. They’re there to remind us of what we’ve been through, of the battles we’ve won.
So if you’re broken, ask God to heal you and bind up your wounds. He’ll do it, and you’ll be able to stand tall and strong and proud, like 200-year-old saguaro cacti – the kings and queens of the desert.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.”
~ Psalm 34:18-19 (NLT