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 facing north with a beautiful view, all yellow and blue like Van Gogh’s Starry Night. This artist trusted his life’s work and was not led astray. Was it Dutch stubbornness or surrendered selflessness? He wasn’t a pleaser. His life ended in poverty, but he left a noble offering to comfort and inspire for generations to come.
A bowl and pitcher sit on a tall narrow table 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 sweeping away piles of leaves drenched in melting snow. I stop to pour water over them, I am in-between-clean.
The light is best here in the morning as the sky is transformed. The tall birch trees gather in clusters, their sparse leaves having curled in on themselves as I often do. I am told that with early frost, leaves will remain until spring.
My eyes are drawn to the one tree set apart. Its leaves were a brilliant red earlier in the season and although now faded, their rich color remains and are worn like a loosely woven robe revealing wisdom. I stand facing the trees as if before a great crowd and my eyes focus in on the one set apart. We are this tree. Maintaining our composure at all costs.
Off into the distance, the Sun paints the picture of a new day, all appears transparent, covered in a silklike veil of elegance and I wonder, if although the tall birch covered with their flexible branches that form pyramidal crowns might be mimicking the Sun’s glory, but that the one set apart contains it?
I feel a shiver. In this silence I know I am seen, seen through and into. This moves me back to the pitcher. As the cool water runs through my fingers, one hand at a time, I savor the sounds of the splashes against my parched skin. With moistness lingering, I finally sit and think of His nail-pierced hands placed against mine, pondering the depths of what “cleansed by the blood of the Lamb,” means for my soul.
Christ stood before the great assembly of accusers in silence with no words of defense, so I will set a table in this house that bears his Name, quieting all voices that interfere with his final steps of obedience, the sacrifice and the depths of his love for all humanity.
Silence surrounds me and spreads throughout me.
As I am exposed to the Sun, moon and stars, I think of all the time I have spent in the valley overcome with fear, with selfish soulless attempts at my work. But when I have fallen, did I not get back up? When I turned away, did I not return?
Now, this service, this calling, I long to fulfill for him. Do I deceive myself? Do I listen but then not do what is right. Does my pen lie? These things I have to reconcile before I see him face to face. 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 great deception and within our own deceit, often refuse to acknowledge it. But repent, he will forgive and refine, bow with open hands, he will cleanse and fill them. He will test. He must. In order to see if the heart that is beating matches the words of the one who is speaking.
If we mourn and struggle and if terror grips, I know now; there is a Balm in Gilead, a physician when friend deceives friend. There is healing. Leaves wither in the chill, there may be no grapes on the branches, but I know what he has promised—to bring comfort to sorrow, to offer forgiveness and grace, to know when our hearts are faint within us. Is he not always with us? And in us? What of His return? Will our eyes that have been trained to see the Unseen finally see?
So fill the skies once again with the wings and songs of doves, and may the meadows fresh with morning dew offer hope.
Who is wise enough to understand all this? With them I will go and meet. Their souls I will greet—those who have listened and heard, and followed even though they have been served sweet grief and a bitter drink. Yet they are lifted up, deceit dissolved, minds renewed, thorns removed, they have taken off their old selves, put on the new, bearing the Image of Christ: chosen, holy, loved. They wear lovely new garments—unfurling compassion, kindness, humility.
Stripped of self we falter, yet over us he lays his Image and plants a holy kiss: chosen, loved, accepted. He left the noblest offering to comfort and inspire for all generations.
In preparation for his return, bearing with one another, God will bind us in unity, Christ’s peace will rule in our hearts. We are made, all creatures—the smallest to the noblest—to be the resting place of God. And whatever we do then, we will do in his Name, Jesus, giving thanks. We will be overcome by the One who became. Our Savior.
Was it stubbornness or surrendered selflessness? He wasn’t a pleaser. His life on earth ended in poverty, but he left the noblest offering to comfort and inspire for all generations to come.
Inspired by Jeremiah 1:30-9:16; Colossians 3:1 – 4:1.