The reading from Jeremiah today speaks of a tree planted beside the waters, one that stretches out its roots to the streams of living water. And no matter the season, this tree’s leaves stay green, and it still bears fruit, even in drought or heat. When I read the words from the passage this morning, my spirit woke up saying, “that’s me!” I do the hard and consistent work to stay planted by the water. I pray and contemplate and study and learn. I worship and wonder. I let God flow and work in and through me, or at least I try to, and I am so very motivated by fruit-bearing, and by legacy. I want my life to have mattered.
Today on a walk, I heard an interview with Annie Downs and Lauren Daigle, two women who have impacted my spiritual life in very real ways with the things they’ve made, and when they mentioned songwriter and singer Lori McKenna in their conversation, I just about stopped in my tracks. Lori and I grew up in the same hometown. We sat in literally the same English classrooms in our same high school, the one she later wrote about in her album, Bittertown. Lori is now a revered and celebrated songwriter, someone who has won Grammys and who has collaborated with huge names and who is talked about on a podcast with other celebrated makers and I am…not that.
It seems to me that the prophetic voices I’ve been hearing lately are talking about a big shift in our world, ‘new wine’ as I talked about in the last podcast episode. Pretty much across the board, spiritual leaders I respect are sensing a new and even miraculous abundance in how God will move in this present time, and I have to say, I feel it, too. I feel it in my spirit when I pray. The ‘new wine’ that is bubbling up is evident to me pretty much everywhere I look, and since I do the hard work of being a good tree who works hard to remain planted by good waters, I sense it and know it to be true, and I try to communicate that truth others, always trying to bear the good fruit.
Things are blooming, or they are about to bloom. I feel it in my bones, but today I seem to be confronted by a belief deep in my heart, and it’s one I am afraid to voice. But this is a Lenten wilderness after all, and if we aren’t going to tell the truth, even to ourselves, how can we allow God to work in it, transform it and take us by the hand through it? So, here’s the truth: I believe this newness is coming, but I believe it for everyone but me.
Friend, I’m a try-hard from way back. I try to do good things and I try to do them well. I often feel unseen, unheard, and untended and it has been the work of the last few years to know that I can see, hear, and tend myself as a kind of self-contained system. Still, I believe that God does elevate, that He does place people in position to bear really good and big and lasting fruit. Just maybe… not me.
I have a paperwhite bulb in my kitchen that grew its stems and leaves very quickly, but it has never bloomed. Its growth seems paralyzed and stuck at the point of the blossom which is currently encapsulated in its tight cocoon of paper, but which has not, to this point anyway, opened.
I see references to butterflies everywhere and my spirit is convinced that this is and will be a time when long-suffering and long-hidden people, people who have done the hard work of growth in the dark places, will burst forth and fly.
As I walked today, I noticed that the first green shoots are coming up out of the ground, and even the four tulip bulbs I planted years ago to symbolize the four members of my immediate family are showing the first signs of their green leaves among the dried grasses. That is, three of them are coming up. Each one but mine.
And when I saw that reality, as I came home from my walk after talking with God about how I know it’s my job to stay rooted by the water and to let Him bear fruit through me, after we talked about how it’s not a good idea to tag or message Annie or Lauren or Lori to try to connect with them (I didn’t), after we talked about how hard it is for me to feel unseen and unknown and unacknowledged and how these are decades-long struggles for me since literal childhood, I just looked at the empty space where my tulip should be rising up among the dead and dry grass, and honestly, it brought tears to my eyes.
Because I believe this will be a time of shift, of blooming and of new wine and fruit that comes out of nowhere, but I seem to believe deep down that this will happen for everyone but me.
We never know our reach, never know how the things we say or do or make might impact or pour into the lives around us. I don’t know who might read or hear these words or when or whether they’ll matter at all. It’s not mine to say. God knows I’ve given the work to Him over and over to do with what He will.
Still, I want to bloom. I want Him to raise me up and I have to be honest with my belief today that I am not sure that He will, at least not according to the things I’ve felt Him tell and show me. In a clearer state of mind, I know that God has planned my path in goodness and love for me and that I can trust Him, and I do. Sometimes the yearning is just something we need to name and move through.
As I’ve seen echoed in recent episodes of The Chosen, in the scripture, and in my own writing (!), our faith is important. It matters to God, and He uses our faith to make things happen. As I sit here and type these words, this kind of wrestling in real time feels dangerous, but I also know that honest wrestling is the path to trust, and I also hope it might be a help to you who are in your own wrestling seasons, or who might be soon. God can and does subvert the laws of nature to make all things new, to heal and feed and save us, and He does this over and over. And I know that’s true because He has done this for me. And this a truth with which I need to reconnect just like a tree stretches out her roots to the water…for dear life.
There are two things I’ve known in my spirit about the things I make. God revealed them to me in pictures decades ago and I refer to these images over and over. There are seeds and water and a lighthouse and a bright red boat, and the details of these images are too holy and dear to me to share here but let me just say, I know them to be true.
Today I guess I just want to be honest about the fact that I want to see blooming. I see the Hand of God moving and I hear the birdcalls and I feel the sun coming out from behind a cloud on this early spring day. I see the green poking out of a cold ground, and I praise God for it. And just for today, I have to confess, just so God can work in honest ground to help me set my spirit right. I have to say I believe it all, for everyone but me.