One Year Later, Tree Stumps Can Bloom

Coincidence? Happenstance? Statistical probability? Perhaps. Or was it the timely voice of a loving God who cares deeply about his kids? 

One year ago, on resurrection Sunday, I sat in the back of a church service. I listened to the teacher deliver his Easter Sunday message. It was admittedly an atypical sermon for the occasion.  He spoke about a tree stump. He reminded us of a stump that once looked barren, and out of that stump grew a shoot. That shoot was Jesus. The shoot has bloomed, blossomed, and spread its branches for two millennia now. He spoke to us about two years of a pandemic, which left many of us feeling like or looking like a tree stump. Unemployment, racial strife, gun violence, sickness, death, fear, political and ideological culture, marriages falling apart. It was a period of unprecedented instability for which we are still experiencing the ripple effects. 

As I sat there, I felt both seen and exposed. I wept. Behind the scenes, and underneath the surface, as I looked at my own life, I felt quite like a tree stump. It was the perfect metaphor for the ecosystem of my own soul. No, there was no major "trauma" for the outsider to observe. But there was much that left me feeling quite barren, not the least of which was a waning faith, struggling to hold on to the goodness of God. 

I felt so clearly that his message was a word from God for me that day. To underscore that sentiment, after he left the room. He walked back in and laid his hands on me and said, "I know you feel like a tree stump. God sees you. Hold on. Keep faith that he will come through and send the rain. One year from now, next Easter, I believe things will look different for you." It was the encouragement I needed.

Fast forward to Palm Sunday, one year later. I sat in a different church, listening to a different teacher preaching a very different sermon from the book of Hebrews. But he opened his message with a photo of a tree in Washington, D.C. But not just any tree. This was was named "Stumpy." Gangly and unattractive, it had one single branch spreading out to the right, defying the odds. It was adorned with cherry blossoms.

As soon as I saw that photo, even before he spoke, I sensed the Lord's loving eye upon me as he whispered, "I haven't forgotten."

One year later, he was pursuing me, responding to my cries. There were indeed changes afoot in my life and in my perspective. The cartography of my soul does look different than it did last year. God hasn't changed. His grace and mercy haven't waxed or waned. But I could look around me and within me and see blooms - signs of growth.

Life is not just only up into the right these days. My faith flickers. I know there are many areas for which I need to return to my first Love. Trials and temptations still come. Yes, it is quite possible that one year from now, I could again look at my life and feel like a tree stump. Tragedy could strike. But what will be different is that I will look back on this past year and I will have a witness calling out to me to remember the kindness of the Lord.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me."

Trial, testing, tribulation, tragedy. These are all things we each face. None of us escapes them. So where do we turn for hope?

I'm putting my hope in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has proven his love. He is the only one who has proven his saving power over the enemies which I will never be able to conquer: sin, death, satan. 

"We are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us."

Today is Good Friday. Thank you, King Jesus, that you are victorious. Thank you for leading the way, as you emptied yourself of all that was rightfully yours, and you chose the cross. You did it for love. You alone have the power to bring gardens from the gravesites of our lives.


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