A poem by Anna Louise Smit (2017)
Do you see the many leaves
Crushed and broken, torn,
Weeping shittim wood
Arms stretched heavenward
As manna then from heaven
Bare they do remain
But in praises sway
Many branches, side to side
In love’s strong roots
Swaying now in Holy Spirit’s
Own sweet Breath.
Beauty in all barrenness
Spirit leaves and fruit
In every season
From His river grow
Fresh water meeting salt
The salt of many tears
Turning death to life
Where man can but see
And in their swaying
Come, all barren, weary souls
Come, find Life in death
Resurrection in arms stretched high
As the manna falls.
Have you ever felt like those barren branches, your leaves crushed, broken and torn? Have you, found yourself, or those around you, lunging to gather up those leaves, to stick them back together and onto that tree. Or, have you found yourself turning away in shame or despair, believing that your lack defines your whole?
What if, instead, we chose to see our barrenness as God’s good purpose? What if we deemed it not a punishment to flee from or an embarrassment to hide from, but rather a place to slow and savor more of His Presence, in communion with our fellow branches? For really “. . . [we] don’t have to be in a hurry. [We]’re not running from anybody! God is leading [us] out of here, and the God of Israel is also [our] rear guard.” (Isaiah 52: 12, MSG).
Scripture tells us: “Your threshing season will overlap with the grape harvest, and your grape harvest will overlap with the season of planting grain. You will eat your fill and live securely in your own land” (Leviticus 26:5 NLT). So, perhaps these beautiful leaves that have been ripped from our branches and drenched in the weight of our tears carry the Ezekiel awaited healing (c.f. Ezekiel 47: 12). Perhaps they are seeds being sown for the harvest to come. Perhaps our barren branches are only barren to help us discover or recover the delight of claiming the promises of our God. Perhaps our wintry circumstances are an invitation to experience the power of God’s Holy Breath, a grape harvest in the dying of our flesh, a resurrection where we would least expect it, restoring our belief in the miraculous.
So, let’s not lunge to fix in shame, or turn away in despair to hide our empty hands, but lift them instead. Let’s turn toward our mighty God and pour out our broken hearts in worship. For He longs to send His own sweet breath of resurrection Life and beckon all lost and barren branches “come”.
The hour of this new dying is clearly defined to the dandelion globe: it is marked by detachment. There is no sense of wrenching: it stands ready, holding up its little life, not knowing when or where or how the wind that bloweth where it listeth may carry it away. It holds itself no longer for its own keeping, only as something to be given: a breath does the rest, turning the “readiness to will” into the “performance.” (2 Cor. 8. 11.) And to a soul that through “deaths oft” has been brought to this point, even acts that look as if they must involve an effort, become something natural, spontaneous, full of a “heavenly involuntariness,” so simply are they the outcome of the indwelling love of Christ.
I. Lilias Trotter. Parables of the Cross (Kindle)
Thank You, Lord, that you are with us, no matter how barren we feel and how wintry dark our circumstances and thoughts or emotions may be. Thank You that Your good purposes for us and our loved ones will always prevail, that we may rest in the great promise that You will never ever leave or forsake us.
Lord, forgive us for those moments we have turned away from You in disbelief. Forgive us for allowing the enemy to cover us in shame or have us believe that You call us to hold tight to what is only gifted us to surrender in faith.
Forgive us for the moments we have leant to fix or put back together what is Yours alone to bring unto wholeness. Thank You, for the gift of Your Holy Spirit who is even now taking us by the hand and leading us into all the truth there is. Thank You that all we truly need is You.
Lord, right here and now, we lift our hands up to You alone, we choose to worship You for who Your Word tells us You are: always good, always faithful and always true.
Lord reveal Yourself afresh to us today, give us Your eyes to see Your goodness right here in the land of the living. Remind us of Your faithfulness. Bring us visions and dreams that show us You have always seen us, that You have always been with us, even when we thought You had forgotten and forsaken us. Open our eyes to see You right there with Your hand upon our head as we kneeled, bowing in prayer as children with our tears flowing.
Lord we believe, help our unbelief. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.