To most, it’s just a necklace. However, to me it speaks of hope and courage to persevere in tough times. It’s a tangible reminder of roots and branches, the makings of family trees. My daughter-in -love gave me this silver and enamel tree of life after Jud died. Sometimes I still need signs that life is precious, no matter how it looks or feels.
This morning I lifted it from my jewelry box, fastened it around my neck like a hug, for good reason. Tonight, via zoom, our Community Bible Study group gathers to wrap-up our study of Revelation. God only knew we’d be studying this frightening and mysterious book, rife with plagues and consequences, during a global pandemic. So why the necklace? Revelation speaks of trees, from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis to the Tree of Life in Revelation. And bridging the gap between the two, the tree on which Jesus died.
So, trees matter. God sometimes uses them to teach. For example, as a child I memorized Psalm one in the King James version. Part of it reads, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Spell check has a hard time with all these “eths.”)
Now that I’m older, I bookend Psalm 1 with Psalm 92.”But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon…even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is nothing but goodness in him!”(from Psalm 92:12-15, NLT)
So what’s the point of all this tree-talk during a pandemic? I guess it’s this, we’re trees, not fragile flowers. We’re stronger than we think and like trees our roots go deep, spread wide, so when storms come we can better withstand the pummeling. Suffering, plagues, deprivation are not new, just new to some of us. Like trees in winter, we may look like nothing’s happening but I’ve lived long enough to know God often uses the worst of times and dormant seasons to heal and promote growth in us. Today, oaks, pines and cedars grow stronger with cleaner air and water. How are we doing?
While I confess, I dreaded reading Revelation, I found it’s rooted more in hope than horror. Its truths remind me choices have consequences. God’s merciful and just, but through Christ we also meet Grace. Sometimes I learn from words, other times life’s my teacher. For instance, this pandemic continues to teach, revealing much about me, us, leadership, nature, our world and what needs appreciating, reevaluating or changing for the good of all.
The book of Revelation, like this pandemic’s, a tough teacher; my necklace a tender one. However, the final words in Revelation cushion the hardest truths and these times with hope. The Apostle John, finishes the book with a blessing, “the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all.” (Rev. 22:21, NLT)
In the end it’s about Grace, that which we could never earn. God’s grace towards us and us towards each other, cushioning hard truths and tough times. As Anne Lamott said when speaking on hope,”Grace bats last.” That reads like a winning walk-off grand slam to me.
And to you, God’s beloved Trees, while we hibernate, I pray we’ll grow in Grace. Our families, neighbors and this world need some holy cushioning.
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