Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Gardener

I’ve had some very, very dark years. 

Years were I have longed for healthy male relationships, for a strong father figure to lead, to show me the way, to take care of me and my brother and my mom.  And while God has denied this in some aspects so that I can learn to rely on Him, He has also strategically placed incredible men in my life to help jolt me and coach me towards healing.

During my senior year of college, an uncle of mine sat me down and asked me why I was holding on to my anger.  I told him that all of my life, people have congratulated me for being so strong and for handling things so well, but all I’d ever wanted someone to say is, “You’re hurting. Let me sit here next to you and hurt with you.” Inwardly I was crying out for someone to help me. I just wanted someone to see my pain, to see what I was going through, to see what was happening to my family.  

So, my uncle turned to me and asked, “Do you want them to see a bitter, scarred woman, or do you want them to see a woman who has walked through the fire and has come out more refined and more beautiful on the other side?” 

From that day on, my prayers changed from “God, help them to see how much I’m hurting,” to “Please, just take my anger away. I don’t want to live like this anymore.”

It was during that time that I began clinging to John 15 – The Vine and the Branches passage. God describes himself as a gardener who comes and cuts away the branches in us that are not bearing fruit, and prunes those that are bearing fruit so that they can be even more fruitful. 

I remember sitting at a computer in my Creative Writing class at college and our assignment was simply to write. I sat there with a blank screen in front of me, lost and feeling nothing. Suddenly I could see a reflection in my screen of a tree just outside the window behind me. It was winter, and so this tree’s branches were bare, but it was waving gently in the wind. All of its fruits were dried up and gone and yet it still held onto its beauty. And then a poem just began pouring out of me about how I was a tree whose fruit was dried up and gone, and I was a tree that was in its winter season. Dead. 

I didn’t feel like I had any fruit to offer the world because I was so broken inside.  

And yet, God in his goodness, still saw beauty and life in me. 

And so I started praying that God would be the gardener of my tree, and if I looked away, would He come gently and trim away the dead branches in me and prune the ones that still had life in them? 

That fall, while my dad was hospitalized for a severe overdose (Daddy Disclaimer), God came quietly and begin trimming away the anger, the bitterness, the ugliness in me.  It wasn’t until weeks later that I realized I could breathe a little easier and the debilitating anger was not as crippling anymore. 

I think God often does that – He heals when we’re not looking. And I think He does that so that we can’t claim the credit for ourselves. We can’t claim credit for the good work that our loving Father has done in us.

Traces of Beauty

This tree
Waves gently in the wind.
Branches are bare, save a few brown leaves.
But it still holds onto its beauty, this tree.
When all of its life is frozen in time,
When all of its fruits are dried and gone,
This tree holds itself up and waves in grace and beauty.

Oh God,
Sometimes my branches are bare.
Sometimes my fruit is dried up and gone.
And still You see a beauty in me -
A reflection of Your Love and Goodness and Grace.
Apart from You I can bear no fruit.
Apart from You I am a lifeless trunk,
Supporting dead and rotting branches.

And Lord,
Sometimes so many rotting branches cling to me.
They are a part of me and I cannot let them go.
But still You call me Beautiful.
When I am dry and cracked,
When the season of my life is dead for a time,
When my life is spent and I have nothing left to give,
Still even then You call me Beautiful.

Oh God,
I grant You permission to be the Gardener of my tree.
As I look off and away up at You,
Will You quietly come and trim away
The rot that has been killing me?

But God,
I have noticed that as soon as I look back
At the holes where those dead branches were,
they grow back.
How can You ever completely take away my ugliness
When I am so focused on it?
I won’t let You.

So God,
I am going to look away now.
When You are ready,
Come by and gently bleed me
Of the poison that is eating away at my being.

Someday God,
I will look back over the tree that is me and
I will see only the traces of Your beauty.

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