I have known that there was such a wood, but not much about the wood itself since I was a child. A little prodding from a source that made no reference whatsoever to Lignum Vitae, caused me to reflect back on that childhood memory.
The trees, originally from the Antilles, is a very tight grained wood. It is hard and makes for extra labor to give it a good finish. Some areas of the world in which it is now produced protect it. The tree produces a little blue flower, at least twice a year; and in particular in Florida, it has become a darling of the pot crowd.
I discovered that this wood, Lignum Vitae, means: “word of life” and that this meaning was derived because of the medicinal cures that it supposedly produced. There are those who use it to make cabinets, and the likes.
Remembering my days in Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, in Bermuda, I recall that the wooden steps, 185 of them, were made of Lignum Vitae. They were installed when the lighthouse was built some one hundred sixty years ago. They have not worn out, in spite of the fact that some sixty thousand people a year walk over them. Those are the recorded visitors. There have always been thousands of unrecorded people traversing those steps. With its millions of footsteps, undoubtedly they show wear, but they continue to serve efficiently.
Two passages of Scripture come to mind: Matthew 5:39 and Luke 6:29. “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Both passages deal with personal relationships to others. I have never found it hard to offer the opposite cheek to an ungodly or unsaved person. It is far harder to respond in that fashion to one of my “brothers” in Christ. I keep thinking that they should “know better” and should exercise more restraint in accordance with Holy Writ. The majority of us find it awkward to be a doormat on which people can scoff their feet. None of us relish the idea of being a “step” for another to reach the top. If I must be a step, let me be at the top to admire the one I assisted in reaching the pinnacle of success. That is the way we think!
Did I not mention that Lignum Vitae means “word of life”? The medicinal quality of this wood needs to be mentioned from the standpoint that every child of God holds in his hands the medicinal cure for a sin sick world…It is The Word of Life.
Paul used that phrase in Philippians 2:16: “Holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.” (NASB)
The quality of our mettle, the grain of our wood is tested when someone “smites” us on the other cheek. It does not take long to reveal the grain of the wood with which we are made. Either we will show our Savior who indwells us and enables us, or we will show that wear quickly under the stress of time.
I have said it and I have written it: We actually have four cheeks…two for slapping and two for kicking.
Lord! Through your enablement help me to be a Lignum Vitae Christian.