I rounded the corner and something seemed off…different.
Unable, at first, to put my finger on exactly what, I paused. Surveyed my surroundings and suddenly there it was clear as day…
Had that tree always been there? Yes, I recognize the silhouette.
And yet it’s so stark. So…bright.
Yes! That’s it! The berries!
That tree, bent with resignation against the years of gale-force winds blowing upon her. Shaping her. Pushing her. Molding her. That tree which for the last two years has sat barren. Withered.
She has blended in with her surroundings, bearing nothing distinguishing to the eye of the beholder. If you were to scan the horizon of this seemingly barren land you would see countless trees like her…the same bent shape from a lifetime of standing against the torrents of the world. The same bland color, as though the energy could not be mustered to match the vibrant greens this land is known for. Forty shades of green? Not her. The world has beat her down. Subdued her. Tamed her.
Two long, hard, laborious years she has stood; and she has born nothing. She has offered nothing to those who look at her that would cause one to take notice, make comment, or pause to enjoy her beauty. There has been no evidence to the outside world that she even lives, let alone produces or thrives.
Today she is radiant. Her branches laden with crimson berries so vibrant they make the deepest shades of green look dull. The warming palette of autumnal hues surrounding her subdue beside her brilliant fruit.
She stands in beauty. No taller, no stronger, yet completely different than she was yesterday. Look to the east or west and your eye is drawn to her. The bright red fruit a gift to the beholder. An offering for the season to come.
What does she offer?
She offers this weary soul hope.
Those two barren years were not in vain. Why she stood those years without showing her brilliant colors, I know not. Perhaps time was needed to recover from an illness only she knows. Perhaps the years of wilderness and barrenness were needed to strengthen her for the overabundance that was to come. Today.
I look at her and I see…myself.
I see those times of spiritual struggle and toil. Of emotional constipation. The times where to all those who looked upon me, self included, only death was visible. The times when I worked, and toiled and watered and sowed and got bare branches in return. No fruit to evidence my labor.
I see hope for those in my life for whom my love runs deepest; and for whom life brings only pain and strife. I see in them now the potential for an abundance of beauty to erupt from the years spent withered and cold and barren.
For who knows what carries on beneath the darkened skin and leafless branches of a body? Who knows what beauty sits in waiting just beneath the leathery surface of wind-worn skin, simply biding its time until the warmth of the perfect sunshine in balance with rain beckons it come.
I see that tree in all her glory, and I see a tie directly to my heart. I am filled with hope anew, anticipating my own blooming that will come from the seed He has been cultivating so long in my heart.
I see that seed in you as well, my friend. Weather the storms and the wind and cold, because one day soon, you are going to wake and be clothed in a beauty you never could have imagined.
And on that day, may the fruit that shines brilliantly in the Son, bring hope to another weary and barren soul looking for hope in a dreary, gray world.