I’m reading a Christian novel about the Oklahoma City bombing, called To The Moon And Back, by Karen Kingsbury. Probably not the best thing for me to be reading right now, but there is something that caught my attention that I never have known before. The Survivor Tree. It is an American elm which is located on the north side of the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Before the bombing this tree was the only shade tree in the parking lot across the street from the Murrah Building. Commuters would arrive early to get one of the shady parking spots provided by the tree’s branches.
It is interesting that this book talk so much about this tree, as I have been reflecting on being rooted, and abiding this week.
Anyway, during the bombing, the blast tore most of the branches from the tree. Embedded in its trunk were glass and debris. A car by the tree had blown up and the hood was on fire up in the crown. Most thought the tree could not survive, and that the glass and debris that was stuck in the bark was valuable enough to cut the tree down.
But people fought to save the tree, and almost a year after the bombing, family members, survivors, and rescue workers gathered for a memorial ceremony by the tree noticed it was beginning to bloom again.
For a tree there is always hope. Chop it down and it still has a chance – its roots can put out fresh sprouts. Even if its roots are old and gnarled, its stump long dormant, at the first whiff of water it comes to life, buds and grows like a sapling.
It didn’t look like the tree would survive. But those a tree there is always hope. The Survivor Tree now thrives and is absolutely beautiful. And the Outdoor Memorial design included a mandate to feature and protect the tree including it’s roots, and now The Survivor Tree thrives and is absolutely beautiful. Each year hundreds of sapplings from the Survivor Tree are given out on the anniversary of the bombing as a symbol of hope and reminder of the inscription written around the deck wall of the tree.
The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.
About 5 or 6 years ago now, 3 people in about a weeks time sent me the portion of scripture in John 15 that talks about abiding in Jesus. It was coupled with the strong encouragement to remain in Him. When this comes from 3 people in one week, I pay attention!
I am not one to be still. I like to be doing, because doing produces results. And that is how I lived my life. Doing. God knew that which is why He lead 3 people to send me that verse, and He also knew that what He had before me wouldn’t be able to be accomplished apart from abiding in His son.
And it has proved true in my life. There have been too many times to count that I have wondered how I would ever accomplish what He has set before me, and I can only look back and know that I could do nothing apart from Him.
I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. John 15: 1-4
About a year ago now I felt like God was asking me over and over again if I was ready. What was I ready for? I didn’t know at the time, but He kept asking, and my answer was always Yes. That was until I realized that He was asking me if I was prepared, if I was abiding, and if my roots and faith were strong enough to carry what was ahead. The answer was No.
So, last summer, I did a lot of praying, and I spent a lot of time in scripture. The praying and time in scripture didn’t end when the summer ended though, it continued. And I have to tell you, that it was a life line for me. I know with everything in me that the time I spent abiding sustained me in times that probably almost broke me.
I remember the day I got home from Puerto Rico, and how much physical pain I was in from sciatica. I had never experienced so much pain in my life. I cried for half of the flight home because of how much it hurt. And I cried the next day as I stood in even more pain at the doctors office asking God How much more pain?.
And sometimes in life you can be asking God the same thing. How much more….
But the answer isn’t in the pain, just like The Survivor Tree wasn’t defeated by what should have killed it.
Just like there is always hope for a tree, even if everything seems hopeless there is always hope when we abide and remain in the True Vine, in Jesus.
I was reminded of these verses the other day, as I haven’t been in scripture as much as I should have been over the past couple weeks. I can make excuses, but I just wasn’t making the time. But the warning is true friends, the one who does not abide in Him is thrown away like a branch and whithers. But the one who remains in Him produces much fruit, because he/she can do nothing apart from Him. The producing of fruit shouldn’t be the goal. The fruit is just the result of a lifestyle of abiding in Him.
How many times have I tried to do things apart from Him? Decisions made without praying. Days gone by without being in the Word. As I have been reflecfting on the past year, from when He asked me Are you ready?, until now… I needed that reminder of truth. The truth that I can truly do nothing apart from Him.
And neither can you. When things are painful, and when things are going well. Our circumstances will change constantly but He remains constant.
So, even if you are busy or tired… Dwell.
Even if things are good right now… Remain.
Even if you are asking God how much more pain… Stay with the One who will always remain, when we endure.
Even if you are overcome with the weight of this world… Abide because He has overcome the world.
Even if… there is always hope.