The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Jeremiah 311:3
I sat in the foyer of a sanctuary - alone. Sun streaming through tall windows casting light in peculiar perpendicular shapes. The iridescent beads on a tapestry of a Lion and Lamb glistening; a golden colored velvet couch, which otherwise might have seem dated, bringing my mind back in time. Dust floating effortlessly in sunlight; I wondered what my spiritual grandfather (a strong faith mentor) would have thought of my life now; so many grand hopes drifting in particles in morning light.
I looked up, whispering a simple prayer in an empty church.
Inspiration: Song, River by Leon Bridges
An unadorned prayer in a grand cathedral, God hears the cry of his people.
The location was a hidden spot for a wedding. Off the beaten path, the twists and turns through bramble and brook finally opened to a small clearing. It was simplistically quaint. Tall trees providing shade, a substantial patch of freshly mowed green grass, a large still pond where at dusk, you could see the ripple in the water of fish coming up for food. There was a fire pit and quiet corners but also a cluster of old vintage buildings. I couldn't decide if I was stepping onto a movie set or whether a subtle participant in an Anthropology magazine shoot but either way, a nice spot for a wedding.
Servant and guest, the next 48 hours were helping my sister. Whether it was carrying out the details of months in the making, or the last minute purchases, we were there to set-up, attend, and tear down the details of a wedding. These first few hours, however, allowed for thoughtful wandering. Each of us were involved in individual tasks so I worked alone using whatever I could find for ambiance. Old wood stumps, borrowed linen, new regalia and forgotten articles in small wooden sheds, I dusted old things off, like a pair of muted blue saloon doors, changing them into something new.
Faith to move mountains
Jesus was sitting with many religious leaders when some men tried to get a man who could not move his body closer to him. Because they were unsuccessful, they made a hole in the roof and lowered him down to Jesus. "When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, "friend, your sins are forgiven."
"The teachers of the Law and the proud religious-law keepers thought to themselves, "Who is this man who speaks as if he is God? Who can forgive sins but God only?
Jesus knew what they were thinking. He said to them, "why do you think this way in your hearts? Which is easier to say, "Your sins are forgotten or, or "Get up and walk"? Luke 5:17-26
Lord God, you see the mess inside.
Jesus forgives and heals a paralyzed man
That morning sitting in sunlight in a church alone, my thoughts came to a chrysalis as the words from Christ settled into the caverns of my heart. Several threads to a simple conversation and faith-filled miraculous event.
Get up and walk
I have shed a lot of tears lately; with the outpour of obedience and faith, I still have doubts. The word that keeps coming to mind is pruning. Open any devotional and you are bound to come across the reference. Cutting dead and diseased branches in order to bare healthy and vibrant blooms takes time and careful tending.
Last year, the neighbor insisted on replacing our shared fence. Reluctantly, I agreed. The price was steep monetarily but the void and empty space was there too. I loved the forty year old weathered, vintage red fence and overgrown ivy. It reminded me of stepping into an old English garden. I loved the little shade it provided too. Yes, i would miss the old fence.
The ripping out of old in order to make something new looked stark and cold. The fence, although more structurally sound, lacked color and vibrancy. The ripped and torn ivy and branches heaped in a pile reminded me that there is a price to pay for progress.
In order to combat the empty looking fence, I planted a row of simple white roses. Having lived only across the street for years, the many variety of roses I had tended to in the front yard were lush and overflowing with fragrant, colorful blooms. This new house, however, left little time for tending and the simplicity of white roses seemed fitting. Through the months, the ivy quickly grew around the roses suffocating their roots. Their blooms became lackluster.
Clearing out the ivy, I committed to a newfound desire to redeem the white blooms. I began cutting old branches, clearing dead blooms and refreshing the soil with fertilizer. The fence looked barren but kept and the weeks began to unfold.
I thought back to the little girl me who cried herself to sleep many nights. Introspective and responsible with a high tolerance for pain, I always held onto hope. As I pruned the white roses, I thought of the dried and broken branches I had let linger inside me. Fifty years later, I came to the same fork in the road but on a much grander scale.
I have poured out all that I could into a marriage that has long been struggling to survive. Obedience and perseverance have been deep roots but the blooms have long been diseased. I am scared. That is when pruning has to be the answer for new growth. The fiercely loyal and not wanting to hurt anyone are not branches to be severed too harshly. It requires a great deal of care - from others, prayer, a quiet listening voice, patience, more prayer and finally grace.
I committed to a 30 day fast of social media in order to sharpen my hearing toward a deep yearning to listen clearly. I am surrounded by kids of all ages and sometimes a childlike faith grows from a simplistic desire to be loved, deeply, intently and with the loving hands of a gardener who prunes not out of destruction but out of a caring heart; it is the recognition for more blooms to grow.
Winter, spring, summer and fall: the seasons mark endings and beginnings. As a kid, I loved the change of seasons. Fall ushered in cool, brisk air, winter - the contrast between the stillness of snow falling and the sound of crackled footsteps on ice. In spring, held the emergence of tender blooms and finally, summer whose shadow stretched into warm, lazy days.
Jesus was sitting with the religious leaders. That is the backdrop for this biblical story. The faith conversation was interrupted by an annoyance. In the middle of a theological debate where important religious instruction was being held, a subtle ripple of intrusion emerged. It was a small group lowering a paralyzed man from a rooftop in order to get him close to Christ.
The audacity! There were no doubt countless people with ailments and paralytic conditions but the story suggests to me one of relationship. Having invested in the story of others and allowing others to invest in me, I have to imagine this tiny gathering of people represented countless hours of conversation. They had heard of a savior who could heal. Perhaps they had no in-depth biblical instruction; they simply held onto a hope that Jesus could redeem and restore.
Their faith must have been one to move mountains - or at least a willingness to
take a risk through trust and perseverance.
Jesus was pruning. Yes, he had performed a miracle but equally important was the miraculous pruning within the religiously educated elite. In the midst of a religious conversation, in the midst of observing the healing of a paralytic man, in the midst of an ordinary day, Jesus was doing something extraordinary.
He was intruding into their very thoughts! The gardener was cutting the old diseased way of thinking; he was ridding the plant of dead blooms. In just a few words, He casts a challenge: "which is easier: to say a man's sins are forgiven or get up and walk."
Which is easier for you?
As I pruned the white roses in my front yard, I too wrestled with the same thoughts of the religious elite: which was easier for me to believe: that God could forgive my sins or to get up and walk? One requires faith and one necessitates action.
That is the stinging result of the cut - penetrating deeply into our own judgements and beliefs. The loving hands of the gardener works from the inside out.
A friend recently wrote a letter that held a handful of words: the wait has not been void but will be returned with the blooms of a new season. How could she of known that seeds and blooms were in exact alignment to a recurring dream I had as a child. Yes, I had the tears, yes, I had the nightmares but I also had hope in a dream and the outstretched hand of a prayer.
In order to be me, fully, I need to trust the gardener's hands - fully. I need to trust the pruning and get up and walk into a love where a savior cries out, "forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do."
There has been a subtle clarity in my thinking: each of us struggle with the pervasive strangulation of sin but Jesus heals through the father and the holy spirit. The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Jeremiah 31:3 And that truly is a sensational love.
Pictures were purchased by Adobe, the song reference found on i-tunes and stories uniquely my own. Copyright 2018
A fellow point guard for the faith; a writer, deep thinker, music loving, jeep blazing ... follower of Jesus.