5 months ago, I wrote about the feeling of feeling emotionally and physically barren, like I was “Done”, and how I was entering a season of rest.
Just as the seasons change and now we see the early blossoms of spring emerging, I also sense a season of personal growth and regeneration. The stored-up grief and inner struggle, wrestling with God and wrestling with our family’s fate seemed (and still sometimes still feels like) frigid in time and space. This season of life where everything stood still while the leaves in my life fell one by one left me as a cracked, old, barren tree.
You know those trees, with the crackled branches you see in winter… often we walk on hikes and the kids like to crunch over strands of barren twigs and I would scream, “Don’t crack it! It will bear leaves in the spring!”
When I observe those barren skinny twigs of winter, I often wonder how they withstand the harsh winter conditions and wind. Why don’t they just crack off and die? They are so vulnerable looking (and tempting for young children to snap off!) In a literal sense, we may also experience these beatings in our season of rest- criticism, discouragement, disappointment, unending busyness of life, and yes, children to trample all over us and wear us out!
In the spring, to our surprise and delight, we all marvel how out of these nearly dead-looking branches comes beautiful, curled-up shoots of leaves and buds! They emerge at the most unexpected times, sometimes early, sometimes late, but just at the appropriate time for that plant.
So it is with our life. Trials, illness, struggle, death, loss, grief, and conflict will all cause us to lose our leaves, so to speak. We may even be stripped to nothing, like a bare branch, or an entire bare tree for a season of life.
Of course, the tree in the winter months is not sitting there completely dormant… it is connected to a complex root system and gathering its nutrients for the next season. It is being fed even though we don’t see it.
I am reminded of the story of the Vine and the Branches in Matthew 15:
15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Though we feel like we are cut and pruned and dormant, our faith in God will keep us rooted to the source… our Vine, our source of strength and sustenance. There are times when we forget to draw from underneath, into our roots of our faith, when instead, we feel like we must just huddle up and weather the storm on our own.
But when you look down, deep into your soul, if faith in God is there, that depth has an endless depth, capable of reviving any barren or seemingly dead tree into a magnificent lush and blooming fruit tree.
I have a few leaves growing back. Maybe a few flower buds too. There’s hope. There’s always Hope.
So my prayer for you, my friends and family and readers is one of my favourite verses, Ephesians 3:16-19:
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Let the promise of the season of spring and bloom encourage us all!