Continuing with the tree-theme, this morning I got into work early. Yesterday had gone pretty disastrously so it was with a distinct ‘eurgh’ that I stepped out into the cold to unlock my bike and cycle in. It was only when I rolled out of the drive that I saw it. Pink, orange, deep blues, shades of grey, gold… A blaze of glory, filling the sky. I let out an audible noise and stopped for a minute, feeling it warm me up from inside. I rode towards it all the way into central London, watching the colours shift as time slipped by.
His mercies are new every morning. And they are sufficient for today.
I was reminded of what the trees had taught me throughout Autumn. And then noticed that I could constantly see the sky as I cycled along, because all the trees were now bare. Their skeletal frames seemed to take on a new majesty as they held the sky in place. I felt, deep in my bones, a sensation that this pictures speaks of those seasons where the leaves have fallen and we are left skeletal and bare, waiting.
That these are the seasons where we learn to worship God just because. Just because he is God, because he is the author of a magnificent sunrise. Without the leaves and the distraction, we are left bare. And yet it is precisely because of this that we have a piercingly clear view of who God is through the spindly branches. New discoveries, deeper, more authentic Love – this is my prayer.
My friend had sent me an excellent and timely blog post by Nate Pyle called Confronting the Lie: God won’t give you more than you can bear. It is powerfully honest and explores the distorted interpretation we have often given Paul’s assurance in his letter to the Corinthians that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. Sometimes, we will find ourselves bearing more than we ourselves are able to carry. Nate’s words say that in the face of situations such as this: limp, anemic sentiments will not stand in the face of a world that is not as it should be.
This exact concept was the one I’ve been struggling with the past few days; the idea that we will not be given more than we could bear just didn’t sit right with me. It’s not true to my experience of our world. As Nate goes on to say – the idea is not that we will be able to bear all that is thrown at us – it is that we have a God who is able to carry what we cannot. A God who will do whatever it takes to fix our eyes on the promise of a magnificent dawn on the horizon, calls us to run, to run towards it with all we have.
But to truly understand the power of this renewing, resurrecting power, we must first experience the brokenness. To rejoice most profoundly in the first shoots of spring, we must first have walked through the winter.
We need to know our need, otherwise the God who promises to meet our needs is surplus to requirements.
So in these seasons I am challenged to acknowledge all that is barren, and wait. But wait actively, as Mary waited for the birth, as those held in bondage wait for freedom. Wait in the expectant knowledge that we have a God who will always be enough – sometimes simply because He is here, warming our hands and locking eyes with us in the midst of our very real winter. This too is salvation, if we would look up and take notice. As Nate says:
I believe expectant waiting can only happen when we exchange our feeble platitudes for an authentic faith that engages God with the full brunt of our emotion and pain. Only then can salvation been seen.
This Advent, this is my prayer – oh Lord would you make us a people courageous enough to acknowledge the bare branches. A people who will wait with expectation for the dawn – which we can now see all the more clearly.