Sometimes God reveals His love and power and grace through another flawless sunset. Sometimes through the roar of waves upon the sand. Other times through the encouragement and hug of a friend. Often through His very Word.
A couple weeks ago, God reminded me of who He is through dirt and a crooked little tree.
After an emotional week, I knew I needed to escape to the woods and take a walk. So I did. The walk began with frantic steps, my heart desperate to escape the weight it had been carrying. As the sun filtered through the trees along top of the ridge, I began soaking in the warmth it offered, my heart encouraged by the way the light danced before me. And I began to pray that the light of Christ, and my desire to run along the path God has created for me, would remain constant in my life.
My head began to clear as I ran, and my heart with it. Then I stopped. And I just sat on a rock in the middle of the trail, and I rested. As the quiet of the woods overtook my clearly-need-to-run-more-often breathing, the smell of the earth became more and more noticeable. As I got up and began walking again, I noticed, not for the first time, the sparkly rocks and their pieces that decorate the otherwise-brown trail I walked. Now, my mind tends to function in similes and word pictures. So as the sunlight brought out the beauty of these glittering rocks, a thought hit me. Our lives are like that trail, and the blessings God sprinkles along the way are like those rocks: easily missed among the dirt, yet never difficult to find if we adjust our focus.
So that was a cutsey little thought, cheesy as it was. But my mind kept going back to the dirt.
There is nothing glamorous about dirt. It just sits there on the ground. We grumble when it's tracked into our homes, yet it always finds its way there. Dirt is messy, and it stains our favorite shoes, and it seems to find joy in causing us to slip after a good rain.
Yet it is in the dirt that things grow.
After a seed has died, it must have dirt in order to take root and become something beautiful and new.
Things like this poor, crooked, little tree.
At first glance, it's pretty pitiful. Ok, even second glance. But it's not. You see, this little guy did not just wither and die when the bigger trees around it blocked the sun light. It did not refuse to grow in the place it has been planted. No, it did just what it was created to do. It grew. At the expense of becoming tall and proud, like the trees most recognized and desired, it grew crooked. It did what it had to to reach the sun, its source of life.
Are we willing to be like this little tree and just grow? Forget about glamour and recognition and pride...and just grow...? It won't always be easy. There will be drought and flood, scorching heat and bitter cold. But will we take the dirt that surrounds us and the nutrients that lie within it, find our glimmer of light, and just...grow?
I hope so. With all my heart, I pray that we look not just past the dirt of our lives, but within it, so that we may know that the struggles never have to be wasted. It is in the middle of our mess that we are most stretched, sharpened, shaped, into all that we are capable of being. It is in the dirt, that we grow.
So though we never need be ashamed of our humble beginnings, no matter how insignificant or messed up they may seem, we also must remember that we are made to grow. And the beauty of being human, and not a tree, is that even if we start out wimpy and lopsided, there is hope. There is hope--even the promise--that as we walk with Jesus, soaking up the life He offers, we will become stronger. Tall and straight, an example of perseverance, a picture of what Jesus can do in a life that is surrendered and committed to falling, over and over again, into the arms of grace so that we may drink of His never-ending riches. Even more beautiful is the truth that Jesus has already done the hard work. Because of His sacrifice on that tree at Calvary, we need not fix ourselves. We cannot fix ourselves. We can no more open the heavens and make the rain fall than we can dig ourselves out of the mess we are in. Thankfully, Jesus is a pretty good gardener. Our only options are to either let God water us right where we're at, or let Him transplant us as we trust that He knows which will be best for us.
Jeremiah 17:8 (ESV) says, "He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit."
And who is "he?" Jeremiah 17:7 (NIV) tells us it "...is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him."
May we trust. May we choose confidence. And may we always keep growing.