This is a particularly ugly season for South Dakota.
The weather has been nice for the past few days, which I am so very thankful for. But then again, it could always blizzard tomorrow.
For now, though, the snow has almost melted away. But instead of the green grass my heart is longing for, everything is brown, and muddy, and damp, and broken. It’s like the earth is covered in scars sustained from a bitter fight with a long winter.
The trees are the ugliest. We don’t have all that many evergreens around here. Most of our trees are the kinds with, well, leaves. In the wintertime the frost clings to the branches, creating strange and wonderful sculptures in backyards or along the highway. But once the winter begins wearing off, like it is right now, the trees stand exposed and naked, their branches looking like a twisted tangled mess.
They look dead.
There is absolutely nothing that indicates that these trees have any amount of life in them. If you didn’t know any better, and you saw these trees in their brown and barren state, you would say, “Yes, those trees must be dead. That is not what living things look like.”
Eventually, these dead, dead, dead trees will come to life again. They always do. It’s like a miracle every spring. These trees that have been standing there, freezing all winter, will bloom and grow and flourish again.
Looking at the trees on my drive home yesterday got me thinking about how the Gospel is everywhere. How God has written His story into everything around us.
Because, goodness, have you ever felt like those trees? I mean have you ever gone through a metaphorical winter in your life, freezing and barren, all of your leaves pulled out by the wind, gnarled and naked and, well, dead?
There are lots of circumstances that can make us feel this way. Tragedy, loss, times of worry or stress, the period between the prayer and the answer to that prayer, these are times when our heart can stop feeling alive for just a little while.
For me, right now, that’s one of the hardest parts about where I’m at. Because even in India – hot, difficult, challenging India, my heart was alive. And for some reason since coming back from the World Race my heart has felt rather un-alive. Rather dead at times. And that is by far the most difficult part of reentry for me.
But I looked at those trees yesterday, and I almost started to cry. Because seeing them in their ugliness, and thinking about how beautiful they will be in a few months, was like hearing a promise spoken over me.
18 I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
19 I will put in the desert
the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together,
20 so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
My God is in the business of creating life in the wasteland, and streams in the desert. My God is life-bringer, and dead-raiser, and sustainer.
And my God is faithful. Oh so faithful.
See, He doesn’t forget that spring is coming. Sometimes we do, I think, because it feels like winter lasts forever. But at just the right time, God brings the trees to life again. Raising them from the dead, making them burst with new growth from the inside out, causing them to bloom and grow and flourish and thrive once more. And I know He’s doing the same with us.
So hang in there.