The Rusty Shield Bearers are blooming once more. That’s their nickname, for all year round the trees are bedecked with sprigs of rust-coloured shield-shaped seed pods. Unlike other seed pods, they don’t droop, but are held erect, almost as if they are defending the tree.
Right throughout the year (except in winter) it is possible to find a cheerful, spunky Rusty Shield Bearer blooming in some part of the city or the other. A sudden unexpected splash of sunshine yellow to gladden the heart.
For this reason I like to call them the Trusty Shield Bearers. Their botanical name is rather more mundane. Peltophorum pterocarpum
Anyway this tree always reminds me of an unnamed hero in the Bible. There’s barely a sentence or two devoted to him, but he was an amazingly brave and trusting person of great faith.
Hidden away in 1 Samuel 14, there is a little story that is very rarely spoken of. But the sheer daring of it always takes my breath away.
This is the background:
Saul’s rejected as king, but still on the throne. Israel is overrun with the Philistines who’ve captured/killed all the blacksmiths in Israel, so the Israelites were in the peculiar position of having to turn to their enemies to get their farming instruments and weapons sharpened. And so on the day of battle none of the Israelite soldiers except Saul and his son Jonathan had swords or spears. (1Sam 13:22)
Wow! Quite an army that! I wonder what exactly they carried with them into battle! Not unnaturally the Israelites chose to camp rather than fight.
That is the setting against which this act of breath-taking daring takes place:
Jonathan takes his armour-bearer to attack a Philistine garrison which was across the valley. And this was their battle strategy: (1Sam 14:8-11)
Jonathan said, “We will go across and let them see us. If they tell us to come up the hill and fight, that will mean the LORD is going to help us win.”
One armed man against a whole garrison!
And here is the amazing part – the unarmed armour-bearer (remember only Jonathan and Saul had spears or swords) says, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul”.
We never hear of the faith of this armour-bearer. His absolute faith and trust in God, that he was willing to lay his life down on the line to support Jonathan in every way.
When I look at The Trusty Shield-bearer in bloom, I think of this young man. I think also of Samwise Gamgee in Tolkein’s ‘Lord of the Rings’. Samwise is another unlikely and unsung heroic figure, willing to support while hidden in the background, doing the mundane but necessary chores, but without him Frodo would never have accomplished his mission. Just as Jonathan would never have won his amazing victory over the Philistine garrison without the support of his armour-bearer at hand to shield him and hand him appropriate weapons at the right moment.
Another unsung hero is the ‘Twisty-tie’ – the little plastic covered wire which holds up weak-stemmed plants against the trellis and other supports. No one sees these little bits of wire. One only sees the huge blooms/fruit. Yet, without these twisty-ties the plant would trail the blooms and fruit on the ground, and the flower/fruit would spoil.
There are countless twisty-ties in our lives – people who silently lift us up in prayer. Some of them we may not even be aware of.
So today I am dedicating my post to the Trusty Shield Bearers, the Samwise Gamgees, the Twisty-Ties in our lives. The ones who support us in prayer, with counsel, with their presence, their word of encouragement. The ones who are willing to stand supporting in the background so that we may bloom…
Doesn’t that sound a lot like the Holy Spirit in fact? Working in the background, holding us up, strengthening us, setting us free to bloom as the people we were meant to be.
Here’s a song which celebrates the Trusty Shield Bearers, the Samwise Gamgees, the Twisty-Ties…
It must have been cold there in my shadow,
To never have sunlight on your face.
You were content to let me shine, that’s your way.
You always walked a step behind.
So I was the one with all the glory,
While you were the one with all the strength.
A beautiful face without a name for so long.
A beautiful smile to hide the pain.
It might have appeared to go unnoticed,
But I’ve got it all here in my heart.
I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it.
I would be nothing without you.
Did you ever know that you’re my hero, and everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle, ’cause you are the wind beneath my wings.
– Written in 1982 by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley
It is God who girds me with strength and makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me on my high places.
He teaches my hands to war, so that a bow of bronze is bent by my arms.
You have also given me the shield of Your salvation;
and Your right hand has held me up,
and Your gentleness has made me great.
You have given a wide place for my steps under me,
so that my feet have not slipped.
Psalm 18:32-36 MKJV
Lord, bless the Twisty-Ties, The Trusty Shield-bearers in my life. Most of all Lord, thank you for being the wind beneath my wings. Help me Lord, to be a faithful Twisty-Tie. Amen
PS: I am indebted to my husband for the photo. He didn’t want to be named. He’s one of the Twisty-Ties in my life. Thank you God for him.