like a tree

I am sitting here, late at night, dusting off this space to pour out some words in a strange time.  Upheaval and change make me want to process them through writing, so here I am.

In some ways, my life has not changed dramatically.  It feels familiar, even as it has come to take a different form.  I shed a few tears on the way home tonight because I met with my second language acquisition class for the last time over Zoom and it hit me all of a sudden that my last real semester is very close to finished.  At the end of every semester, I mourn, just a little, for the classes I'll never have again, for the friends I'll not see in the same ways or at the same times, and for the professors whom I'll never again get to hear in that particular context, teaching about that certain thing.  This time feels very different and final, and my emotions are complicated and contradictory.

I don't want to talk about school, though.  I want to talk about what I'm learning, what I'm seeing, how I'm trying to process all of this.  Today a song has been in my head and the chorus runs like this: plant me like a tree, by the streams of living water.  I've been thinking about this idea, about the tree, for a few weeks now.  Actually, it's been much longer than that.  A note on my closet door holds the faded verses from Jeremiah that describe the tree in the desert that is green and bears fruit though the rain does not fall.  That has long been an image that is powerful to me.  Maybe it means so much because I long to feel like that tree myself.  I long to feel as though nothing around me can shake me or cause me to wilt and drop fruit to the ground.  Perhaps this is borne out of my deep desire to be independent and self-sufficient, in the way of an enneagram five who fears never having or being enough.  And so this time has been instructive and has peeled away my pretense of having control, of being able to understand my way out of difficulty.  My utter dependence on God is written out all around me.  I am always conscious of how my circumstances affect me in ways that are not exactly praiseworthy on my part.  I constantly wonder when I am in a time of abundance, feel as though God is close enough to touch, or receive good news whether I would be quite so joyful if things were different, and it humbles me.  If I am to rejoice in all things, that means all things, right?

The other week it snowed a few inches here in Indiana.  I had mowed the yard for the first time just a few days before and my skin was still red from where I didn't use sunscreen.  This is the way of the midwest, and I shouldn't have been surprised.  On my way out to my car that morning, I noticed a brilliant violet, still blooming through the ice, and it made me stop.  Perhaps I'm sentimental and chalk too much up to what I observe, but I want to come out of all of this like that flower.  I want to be more aware of how needy I am, how much I need people and community and the grace of God (so much so much), but I want my circumstances to matter a little less when it's all said and done.  I want to brave the heat of the desert and the draught of the wilderness and the floods of spring with greater assurance and confidence—not in myself, but in God.  C.S. Lewis writes that we find God when we "consciously seek from him the right attitude toward all unpleasant things."  We find him faithful and sure and still present, though nothing seems the same.  I don't like change, don't like to see how much my plans and dreams mean to me when they suddenly seem less certain, and my response to all of it has not been consistently glorifying, I will admit.  And yet, I hold my hands out in front of me, open, in trust that God is always good, even if that good does not seem so good to me.  I ask to be taught and that I might allow myself to be taught, even by something as horrible as this virus.  To become more like a tree with deep roots fed by living water.
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17: 7-8

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