Jan 25, 2012
January 25, 2012
I'm not sure when the last leaves fell from the tall trees in the yard; our winter wasn't harsh enough to pinpoint a single killing frost. They seemed to come down all at once, though-whispering in the sky one evening, silent on the ground just a few hours later when I stepped outside, warm coffee mug in hand.
Now that the trees are bare I'm seeing birds I never noticed before-ten, twenty, thirty at a time perched in the branches and listing easily in the breeze. Each morning I'd go outside and wonder where in the world they came from...where they'd been before. Then I understood: I didn't know my backyard was so full of birds because all I saw was the luscious leaves they'd been perching in. They'd been there all along, but because I was focused on something else they were invisible to me.
Last night I had dinner with a dear friend...the kind of friend whose presence makes you breathe easier. A friend whose face is a familiar comfort , and whose heart has always been incredibly kind toward me. We talked about struggle, and its impact. She is a widow, entering her third year without the love of her life. Parts of her world that were once lush and full are now emptier. More bare. She is a teacher of the Word. One of my favorite teachers. One I've longed to emulate in her love and wisdom. She smiles sometimes and says her student has surpassed her. But I haven't. I don't believe I ever will.
"How has what you've been through lately changed your teaching?" she asked me as we nibbled plates of Middle Eastern food. (I'm quite sure my struggles are nowhere near as challenging as her own. But she's not all about herself. When you're with this friend, she's laser focused on you.)
I didn't answer right away. I wanted to find the right words. But I knew the truth almost instantly. "Everything is closer to the surface," I told her. "More intense. More real. More vulnerable."
"Anything else?" she wanted to know.
"Yes," I said. "I love the people I teach more. Sometimes so much it hurts." Then I asked her the same question.
"I cry a lot more," she admitted. "And I do see their hurts. Even the invisible ones. I recognize their woundedness because I've been wounded, too. And I want to tell them the truth even when it's hard. There's no room for platitudes anymore."
Bare branches show us things we never noticed before. Bare branches bring things into clear focus-sometimes with a heart pang, but always with a surprising clarity.
I love the lush green of my backyard in summer. But the not-so-bright seasons have hidden treasures in them, too-and I wouldn't trade the sharper view for an endless string of sunlit days. Not now. Not ever. Because bare branches have a beauty all their own.
"Now that we know what we have-Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God-let's not let it slip through our fingers. We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all-all but the sin. So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help." (Hebrews 4:14-16, The Message)
"Speak what you feel, not what you ought to say."