The Parable of the Precious Ivy by Julianne Feb. 28, 2023
At that time, in the county of Yore in the country of Bairn, there lived the distinguished family of Alabaster Manor. They farmed one-hundred acres of fertile land primarily to grow grapes that were pressed and fermented to produce a most remarkable wine. Year after year, the vineyards were vast and fruitful. The wine they yielded was in great demand and brought the family both wealth and fame throughout the land.
Their master vineyard manager was a strong, steadfast, God-fearing, humble man named Nathan Grey. He boasted a full silver beard which made him look much older than his forty years. He was diligent and kind to his workers and was respected by the grape growers and the Lord of the Manor in equal measure. Nathan was married to his childhood sweetheart, Therese. Unfortunately, the couple was childless. Accepting God’s will for their lives, they worked together to make a happy home and to dutifully fulfill the obligations required by the work in the vineyard.
One warm day after the harvest, the Lord of the Manor approached Nathan in the field with a hearty slap on the back and a throaty tone of approval saying:
“Nathan my good man, the harvest was outstanding! Your hard work and good sense have been noticed and appreciated by me and many of my peers. As of this day, I bequeath to you five acres of fertile land on the western border of the estate, where you can grow the exotic plants you have studied and yearned to propagate, as we have discussed so many times over a glass of our finest port. What do you say, Nathan?”
Nathan’s eyes widened with astonishment as he took in the full meaning of his lordship’s generous gift.
“Do you mean it?” he said with incredulity. “This is a dream come true!”
“Oh yes,” repeated his lordship. “You have worked very hard for me these many years and you have been a trustworthy, honest, and humble man. I consider you a trusted friend and I wish to help you accomplish your agricultural goals. I look forward to witnessing the miracles you will coax from the soil that I bequeath to you this very day!”
In the months and years to follow, on this modest plot of land, Nathan grew many exotic plants that amazed all who watched them grow. Some were cultivated for their beauty, some for their floral scent, and some for their medicinal and healing properties. And each year, Nathan brought his finest specimens to the village agricultural fair where he won trophies in all categories of excellence.
His crowning achievement was a rare beauty known as “Precious Ivy,” which had no match in the ivy genus Hedera because of the subtle sheen of its verdant leaves, the peculiar shade of green, with a touch of silver on the tips of each leaf. That sliver of silver gave the crop quite an ethereal appearance, especially as the leaves swayed in the breeze and sparkled in the sun.
Nathan often stopped to watch the crop from a distance, remarking how the Precious Ivy appeared as if it could easily drape the entry to the gates of heaven as the heavenly hosts greeted all faithful souls.
However, this Precious Ivy was very difficult to grow. Much of it died off before it was able to sprout its first substantial foliage. To cultivate this little miracle plant required a special routine of intermittent watering, and a rare formula of fertilizer, which had to be applied using a unique trench method, requiring weekly digging in a careful manner so as not to disturb the roots. To reach their true glory, the plants must have sun in the morning and be shaded by tarps in the afternoon. Nathan carved the growing formula for the Precious Ivy in stone and placed it in the bunkhouse of the workers who were to be the caretakers of the Ivy. The physical work required of the growers who were assigned to this crop was substantial and exacting. Because Nathan had a great deal of responsibility for supervising the growers in the vineyard, he had to rely on only two of the workers, especially during the busy growing and harvesting seasons for the vineyard. They were all the Lord of the Manor could spare to help Nathan propagate the Precious Ivy in his exotic plant garden.
For the first two seasons that Nathan planted the Precious Ivy, all went as planned and the delicate roots began to take hold of the fertilized soil. Small shoots could be seen quite early, within weeks! This gave Nathan a great deal of hope. But then, in the third season, a grower named Sandman began to grumble at his bunkmate, Fritz.
“Fritz,” he said, “I am sick and tired of babysitting Nathan’s Precious Ivy. What good is it anyway? You can’t eat it. It doesn’t flower and has no scent at all. It is pure vanity, Nathan’s vanity! We work night and day to keep the first shoots alive and I have callouses on my callouses from digging the trenches this stupid, useless plant requires. Aren’t you sick and tired too?”
“Yes, Sandman. I’m sick and I’m tired, but you know Nathan will never listen to our words. He will be insulted and ignore us.”
“But Fritz, if I didn’t have this forsaken duty, I could find greater favor with his lordship and maybe even take Nathan’s place as foreman someday. But instead, I am doomed to the west end, where his lordship never visits, except to talk to Nathan. He will never recognize the extent of my toiling or see any fruits of my labor.”
Fritz turned to Sandman with an idea!
“Hey Sandman, what If the dreaded ivy died before it reached maturity? What if we changed the routine oh so imperceptibly so that the crop would wither and fail to bring Nathan any glory?”
“Why not?” said Sandman. “But we would never get away with it.”
“Hey,” he added, “What if the crop just disappeared one night? While we are weeding, we’ll pull out the shoots one by one!”
“Sure!” Echoed Fritz. “We will tell Nathan what’s left is merely weeds. We will convince Nathan that the Precious Ivy shoots are truly just weeds! That’s it!”
“But…” Sandman stuttered, “Nathan knows what the Precious Ivy seedlings look like. He won’t be fooled.”
“Let us seed the bed with weeds so the ivy seedlings will disappear. They are so delicate; they will vanish among a strong planting of thistle.” Fritz suggested proudly.
“When the crop becomes weak and sparse, Nathan will give up his folly,” Sandman wished.
“I suppose it’s worth a try,” said Fritz.
So in this season, Fritz and Sandman hatched their plan to destroy the Precious Ivy. Eventually, even Nathan began to believe that the Precious Ivy seedlings were actually weeds. Soon, the rows and rows of Precious Ivy began to fade. Week after week, the growers plucked the seedlings with the weeds and discarded them all in a bin, unceremoniously trashing the most precious and beautiful ivy ever seen in this part of the country.
Nathan grew despondent and began to change his growing formula to adapt to the situation, but to no avail. The formula was cast in stone and he trusted it. Something else was wrong.
One night, Nathan decided to sleep out in the fields and watch the Precious Ivy grow, hoping to discover what creature or disease or invasive weed was attacking his Precious Ivy.
On one early morning at dawn’s first light, Nathan made a sad discovery. He watched from behind a bush as Fritz and Sandman cast the thistle seed that was killing the seedlings. He watched as they skipped the watering routine and failed to fertilize properly. They were breaking all the rules. Then, to Nathan’s horror, he watched them rip up the delicate Precious Ivy seedlings along with the thistle, and separated them from the soil, piece by piece. Nathan never suspected that his own growers would be the cause of the death of the Precious Ivy.
The next evening, Nathan entered the bunk room at dinner time and confronted the growers.
“I saw what you did!” whispered Nathan, just so they could hear if they paid very good attention. “You purposely destroyed my Precious Ivy before the innocent seedlings could take good root. Why, oh why would you do such a thing? You are the very special people chosen to plant them and nurture them until they are fully grown. Oh no, not you!” Nathan seemed to be thinking out loud.
Sandman spoke first:
“We have every right to rip out that nuisance plant. It’s not Precious Ivy, it’s POISON IVY! It’s not a plant, it’s a WEED!” he insisted. “It has changed everything for us and we don’t like it.”
“Yeah,” Fritz chimed in. “We work for the Lord of the Manor and you are taking us away from work that would bring us our lordship’s favor. We have better things to do than play nursemaid to your folly!”
Nathan simply corrected them, meekly.
“What may look like a weed to you is God’s precious creation, a beauty to behold at maturity. Like a child in the womb, it is at first so small and strange. The Precious Ivy depends upon the skilled hands of the grower to care for it and nurture it. With this love and tenderness, the plant will grow into a sight to behold, becoming a wonder that brings joy to all who see it!”
Nathan then pronounced with visible regret:
“Men, you had a blessed responsibility to care for this little miracle and I gave you everything you needed to do it. But you have failed. Before God and the Lord of the Manor, you will confess your neglect of duty and leave this place, never to return!”
After he had apprised the Lord of the Manor of all that transpired, Nathan ushered Sandman and Fritz into his lordship’s drawing room to receive their judgment.
His lordship declared:
“Begone! For whoever should harm even one leaf of the Precious Ivy does not deserve to work among the chosen growers of Alabaster Manor!”
The next season, his lordship assigned four new growers, who Nathan tested thoroughly to be sure they would love the Precious Ivy as much as he did. And they did. The growers worked diligently to propagate a new crop of Precious Ivy from the remnants they found struggling in the field.
Nathan was proud to bring a sample of the new crop to his wife Therese to adore. He hoped the news of this resurrection would bring a spark of life for both of them.
And indeed it did. The lovely Therese pressed the magnificent Precious Ivy to her bosom and whispered in her husband’s ear: “My dear, you are going to be a father!”
And so, just as the Precious Ivy seedlings began to sprout anew, so too the child in Therese’s womb is bursting forth with life. Under the protection and nurturing of the growers and a grateful mother, both the seedlings and the child are busy becoming all that they can be.
As we all know that Jesus said: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth!”
(pngtree: Ivy image: Vibrant png from pngtree.com/)