We had not planned to shop for plants as we parked and threaded our way through the lot to the massive flea market held at the North Carolina State Fair Grounds. For plant shopping our first choice would have been the farmer’s market a little further south. As the sun roasted our brains we scanned the booths to inspect the junk waiting to change hands. Amazing what people try to sell and even more amazing what people will buy. As I recall I needed a glass knob for an antique cabinet we were restoring and figured the flea market had high potential of delivering such an oddity.
Ever watched as a cat chases a laser pointer? That is a great picture of what happened to me when I spied a vendor selling plants. Acres and acres of flea market merchandise became invisible as I walked through the display of three-foot Japanese maple saplings, mostly Bloodgood, one of the common varieties. Alas, the price tags were uptown rather than flea market range, but I continued my search.
And then I saw it.
Tucked in the back near the vendor’s trailer door stood a scrawny two-foot paperbark Maple (Acer griseum). I’d only seen one in my gardening life, a huge specimen at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. I scooped the pot up for a closer look and nudged Shawn. The price tag dropped my jaw. Really? Are you serious? Only $10? Now I cradled the pot into my chest as Shawn stared at my face with her knowing smile. “Buy it, Dear!” And she handed me a ten dollar bill. On some occasions I display my tree-hugging tendency although more frequently I demonstrate my wife-hugging tendency.
The vendor nodded as I passed the bill over. “An excellent choice, sir! Most people go for the showy Bloodgoods which are just too common. Your tree will amaze you as it grows. And there are very few in gardens around here.” He gave some brief instructions on planting and care, and we made tracks for the car.
I planted the paperbark maple in dappled shade. It started slowly but has now reached a height of fifteen feet with a similar spread. And the bark is becoming obvious in its ostentatious display of gorgeousness.
The paperbark maple is a keeper.
I’m thankful that God picked me from the flea market of humanity and made me His own child. I have to dial back the pride when I realize the choice had nothing to do with any worthiness on my part. Consider God’s words to Israel.
For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 7:6-8 NASB
And Paul amplifies the message to New Testament believers.
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong; and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.
1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NASB
Sometimes I feel like that little tree—alone, stuck in the back behind the glamourous specimens, overlooked, unwanted, and sporting a much lower price tag. And then I remember that God chose me.
But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
1 Peter 2:9 NASB
And the best part is that God’s offer includes what I will call “the whoever clause.” His blessings and His choice are not for me alone. Don’t take my word for it. Take His.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
John 3:16 NASB (Emphasis added)
for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
Romans 10:13 NASB (Emphasis added)
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
1 John 4:15 NASB (Emphasis added)
Is anyone automatically excluded from God’s offer? Again, don’t take my word for it. Take His.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.
Revelation 3:20 NASB
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. Revelation 22:17 NASB
As I look up from the keyboard I see the paperbark maple through my study window. That tree stands as a vivid reminder that Someone chose me.