It is (supposedly) Spring in New England which means the cycle of life is scheduled to begin anew with flowers peeking through the cold soil and buds on the trees reaching for the warmer sun. March has made it feel like Spring will never come, but crocuses and daffodils are finally starting to push their way up.
“At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.” Job 14:7-9
This verse in Job is the theme for the new direction of the Women’s Ministry at Black Rock, the church I belong to. A strong root system is vital to the growth and longevity of plant life. The deeper the root system, the more likely a tree can withstand severe storms and the wind they bring with them.
Around the corner from my house, this tree stands about 20 feet from a lake and is living proof of this verse in Job 14. I’m assuming the original tree grew too large and blocked the view of the water from the houses across the street. It was cut down but not all the way. I’m guessing water from the lake underground has allowed the tree to get the “scent” of water and therefore begin to sprout new branches.
In a strange way, I feel a kinship with this tree. It parallels my up and down walk with the Lord. After becoming a believer my freshman year of college and spending the next four years in the protective bubble of a Christian school, I was tossed unceremoniously into the real world without a strong foundation of faith. As a result, I fell away quickly and started living my life on my own terms. God had no place in this new life of mine.
Four years later, I was stripped of anything resembling a life, including my physical health. After almost 12 years of unexplained health issues, I finally had a diagnosis – Lyme disease and another parasite had ravaged my body. I could barely eat and weighed about 98 pounds. I could barely sleep. I could barely walk. The Lyme disease had locked up my hip joints with excruciating arthritic pain and the parasite left me with virtually no muscle and borderline anemia. It wasn’t pretty. I was essentially skin and bones.
And my physical form wasn’t the only part of me that felt hollow. I was lost in a spiritual wilderness. I had to take unpaid leave from my job to go home and live with my parents while undergoing treatment. I felt like I had nothing, and because I had turned my back on my walk with the Lord, I had nothing to cling to. Sometimes we must be stripped down to nothing to understand just how much we NEED Jesus. The world inside my head during that first month of treatment was eerily silent and terribly lonely. And hopeless.
Since it was the beginning of March when I went home for treatment, I was in my hometown for Lent, Holy Week and Easter. I hadn’t been to church on a regular basis in four years. The head priest at my mom’s church loved Holy Week – the spirit came over him in the most beautiful way during that time of year. One of his sermons during that particular Holy Week was about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ John 11:43
Father Andy said that is Jesus’ call to each of us – to come out of our graves of sin and step into the eternal mercies only He can provide. I realize now that was my “whiff” of water. That moment was the moment I caught the scent of God’s grace and peace. That moment began my journey back to the Lord. It has been a long journey, one fraught with doubt and shame, but it has been worth every labored step. And it isn’t over yet.
In a God-inspired confluence, I read that scripture in John the day after we had the introductory event for our Women’s Ministry at Black Rock. Only God could weave a tapestry from a scripture and sermon I heard 14 years ago and connect it to my current spiritual walk and my involvement with that ministry.
If you are feeling stripped of everything or are suffering under the weight of guilt and shame, Jesus is calling. He is calling you out of the death of sin and into a life of grace. He’s not waiting for you to be perfect – He’s simply waiting for you to surrender. There is a hymn called Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy, and one of the lyrics is “If you tarry till you’re better,/You will never come at all.” The bottom line is that we’ll never feel ready. The good news? God meets us wherever we are, in whatever state. If Jesus can raise Lazarus from physical death, He has no problem transforming the lives we’re living now. He only needs us to heed His call and walk out of the tomb.
Jen is a Connecticut transplant by way of Williamsport, PA and Washington, DC. She has spent the majority of her career in the arts and volunteers in various capacities at Black Rock Church, in Fairfield, CT. Although writing has been more of personal outlet for Jen, God has given her opportunities in the past year to publish some of her writing, including a series of internal posts for Black Rock’s Read It, Live It initiative and now, on The Path I Follow.