I have come from one place, arrived here, and am now in-between here and the place I am going. I wait in my favorite room all yellow and blue like Van Gogh’s Starry Night, with a beautiful view.
A bowl and pitcher sit on a tall narrow table just to the right of the door. It has been passed down from generation to generation. I am aware that the white paint is chipped and cracked like my nails and the skin on my hands from raking up the last of the fall leaves. I stop to pour water over them—I am in between clean—then enter into the room with a view.
It faces north with windows on three sides. The light is best here in the morning as the sky reflects the rising sun. The rows of Maples lining the hill block the view of the horizon in their full foliage. But the cold has set in and the leaves that remain have curled in on themselves as I often do. I have heard that with the early frost the leaves will remain all winter. They will be worn like loosely woven robes carrying wisdom within them.
My eyes are drawn to the one small tree set apart. Its leaves were a brilliant red earlier in the season and though now faded, a remnant of color remains.
I stand facing the trees as if before a great crowd as my eyes focus in on the single red tree. I am this tree. Stained, set apart. Maintaining my composure at all costs. I can see through it. Off into the distance the sun is casting a glow across the scene so that all appears transparent, covered in a silklike veil of elegance and I wonder if, although the tall Maples mimic the sun’s glory, the red tree contains it.
I feel a shiver. In this silence I know I am seen, seen through, and into. It forces me back to the pitcher and I let the cool water run through my fingers once again, one hand at a time, savoring the sounds of the splashes against my parched skin. With moistness lingering, I finally sit and I think of His nail pierced hands against mine, pondering the depth of what “cleansed by the blood of the Lamb,” means to my soul. He is coming.
The red tree set apart before the great rows of Maples, like Christ standing before the great assembly of accusers in silence. No words of defense.
So I will set a table in the house that bears the Name of His love, quieting all voices that interfere with the sounds of joy. I am exposed to the sun and moon and all the stars of the heavens, and I think of all the time I have spent in the valley overcome with fear, with selfish soulless attempts at my work—this service I long to fulfill for Him…
But when I fall, do I not get back up? When I turn away, do I not return? Do I deceive myself? Do I listen but then not say what is right. Does my pen lie? These things I have to reconcile before He comes.
Even the dove and the thrush can observe the time of their migration. But like a horse charging into battle I have so often gone my own way. We exist in the midst of deception and within our own deceit, often refuse to acknowledge it. But repent and He will refine. Lay with open hands. He will test. He must in order to see if the heart that is beating will match the words of the one who is speaking. If we mourn and struggle and if terror grips, I now know that there is a Balm in Gilead. A Physician when friend deceives friend. Healing.
The leaves may have withered in the chill, there may be no figs or grapes but I know what He has promised—to bring comfort in sorrow and to know when my heart is faint within me. Is He not always with me? What of this return? My eyes that have been trained to see the unseen will finally see?
So fill the skies once again with the wings and songs of doves, and may the meadows fresh with newly fallen snow hear the cattle lowing.
Who is wise enough to understand all this? With them I will go and meet. Their souls I will greet for they have listened and heard, and followed although they have been served sweet sorrows and a bitter drink. Yet they are lifted up, deceit dissolved, minds renewed, their thorns removed; taking off their old selves and putting on the new they bear the Image of their Creator: chosen, holy, loved. They wear lovely winter robes, unfurling compassion, kindness, humility.
Stripped of self we falter, yet over us he lays this Image with whispers: holy, loved, chosen.
Now in preparation for His coming, bearing with one another, God will bind us in perfect unity, Christ’s peace will rule in our hearts. And whatever we do then, we will do in His Name. Giving thanks. We will be overcome by the One who became. Our Savior.
Inspired by Jeremiah 1:30-9:16; Colossians 3:1 – 4:1.
Photo: Brook Cagle, Unsplash