The Parable of the Sand Food Plant by Jason Caywood
I came across an article in the March 2021 issue of Arizona Highways magazine that I found oddly compelling. This article was about a very unique plant which is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. Specifically, the Sand Food plant. The name alone was first intriguing but the further into the article I got the more interested I became.
The Sand Food plant is actually considered a parasite because it attaches itself to the roots of various desert shrubs rather than growing out of the soil of itself. Normally parasites take away the water and nutrients of the host plant—potentially leading to the weakening of it and perhaps leading to its death. However, the Sand Food plant is different in that it seems to improve the health of the plant that it has become attached to!
Aside from the beauty of God’s creativity and the blessing of the diversity within the world which this unusual plant demonstrates, it is the functionality of the Sanfood plant that has captured my attention. This appears to be a kind of natural parable with profound lessons to teach us. Here is what I think it points toward in regard to our relations within God’s world.
Like the desert shrubs of the Sonoran desert we are exposed to spirit beings and fellow humans who are rootless. That is, they have chosen to wander into paths of their own choosing rather than heed the truth of God and receive the love of the Father. They became or are becoming characteristically like parasites—constantly seeking to receive affirmation of their narrowly self-defined identities, improvised values and desperate need for approval. They have no core spiritual knowledge of themselves or the living God within them and they seek to pull out of other persons what alone can come from God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some of us can directly identify with this because we were very much like this before the light of God’s love and mercy pierced our souls and we yielded to the Holy Spirit’s operations in us. Profound progressive changes began within us—a new awareness of and embrace of God’s grace changed how we perceived ourselves, other persons and God. The parasitic characteristics of the flesh (the “self-life”) that had controlled our thinking and desperate attempts to get our own way and meet our basic needs through taking from other persons was renounced. Why did we do this? We recognized that our actions and attitudes were not only abusive, hateful, evil and offensive to God but that they were futile. Our awareness of God as the source of all things and the loving Presence filling the creation led us to learn to entrust ourselves to our Creator; to trust the Holy Spirit and desire to receive eternal life from the Father through his Son our Lord.
This change within us came because of the Presence of the living God within our souls: The indwelling of the Spirit on his throne (the human spirit) and the increasing scope of his activity within his creation (the human soul and body). Like the desert shrub that has a Sand Food plant attached to it, underground and almost always out of sight, the maturing disciple of the Lord Jesus will demonstrate signs of vital and health.
Another lesson can be drawn from the Sand Food plant. This plant rarely blooms but when it does a portion emerges from the sand and purple and white flowers appear on it. I think that this is a beautiful picture of the Spirit’s work of transformation of the human person—of the restoration work of the Spirit—made evident mainly through sound character, maturity in love and fidelity in relationships. There are unique times when the Presence within a believer is manifested in such obvious ways while most of the time change is slow and progressive. We often misjudge the significance of the slow progressive changes in ourselves and others because we are obsessed with seeing only the more phenomenal manifestations of God’s Presence and power.
When we think of ourselves or evaluate the words and behavior of other persons or when we are tempted to despair of seeing the mighty work of God we need to remember the parable of the Sand Food plant. The most potent miracle of God is the transformed individual—a permanent re-forming of one’s character, conduct and the ensuing manifestation of the beauty of the inner person being remade in the image of the Son of God. And the only hope we have of change to our habits, attitudes and dispositions and restoration of relationships is God himself and the work of the blessed Spirit. Let us ask him to open the eyes of our hearts to “see” him at work and fully cooperate with the blessed work of God’s Kingdom on earth.