Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cut Off

In one swift motion, the door closes on several areas of my life.  Like branches which fall to the ground, they are cut off from fruitfulness, and I grieve the loss.  Pruning appears so harsh.  It leaves the tree looking awkward, exposed, and stripped of all dignity.

In my recent musings on the death and resurrection of Christ, I've been brought near to the thought  that Jesus was cut off from descendants, cut down in His prime.  At the very moment when life was snowballing in success, when crowds followed and impact was immense, He is suddenly brought low.   The cross seemed a devastating defeat. 

We know we will share in His glory, but why so reluctant to share in His sufferings?

I've been waiting on the Lord, because I know that when there are so many "nos", surely He has a "yes" in mind that is far greater than anything I could ever imagine.  Yet, when it comes to the building of my character or to personal growth, God never seems in a hurry.  Surely, He has appointed me to bear fruit, but in that purpose there must first be a dying to myself, a tamping down of the earth, a burial.  And then comes the long wait when it seems nothing is happening.

Though I have not actively chosen it, God is taking away ministry opportunities, cutting me down in the very area of what I thought were my gifts.  It's like He is forcing me to rest, and I can do nothing but be still.  Lies whisper spiritual barrenness, a wasteland of prickles and sand.  But I know better.

Just this morning I read that "the wasteland will rejoice and blossom...yes, there will be an abundance of flowers, singing, and joy!  The deserts will become as green as Lebanon..."  It is "there that the LORD will display His glory".  (Isa. 35:1-2) 

Yesterday, I was walking in the desert, and now today there is snow, coveted moisture for our drought laden spring.  It has not stopped, but continues in big fluffy flakes.  Without a sound it falls.  So still, so silent, but so effective.

Over the last month, Thursdays come with tired hands and weak knees.  Fear springs up and threatens to choke the life right out of me, and yet integrity would have me finish my commitment.  But the Lord says to those with fearful hearts, "be strong" and "do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.  He is coming to save you."  (Isa. 35:4)  And though the context of Isaiah 35 is actually referring to the end of the age when Jesus will come to reign bodily on this earth, because it was my reading for this morning, I believe God's Spirit was speaking to my heart for this day as well. 

Waiting is required in every season, not just that of sowing seed.  Just when a tree seems well established and about to flower, there is this stripping of its branches, requiring even more waiting.  Yet, as we share in the sufferings of Christ, we will not be utterly destroyed, but we might be cut off.  However, Jesus, as our risen Lord, has adopted us into His family where now He reigns with so many descendants they can scarcely be counted!  Surely, what is cut off can be grafted back in to produce a beauty that is unique and even fuller than it had been before. 

Almost every day on the way to other places, I walk by this tree, a testimony to the power of God.

At first glance, this tree appears like any other tree in the park.  But a close look reveals something unusual at its trunk, a grafted branch. 

Any other time of the year it remains hidden, but in spring the truth becomes clear.  It has defied all odds.  What was cut off has been made new.   What was devoid of life, now lives triumphant.

Only by the blood of Jesus can life flourish in this manner, hence the tinge of pink, a soft reminder of the sufferings of Christ which makes me white as snow. 

"And a great road will go through that once deserted land.  It will be named the Highway of Holiness.  Evil minded people will never travel on it...only the redeemed will walk on it."  (Isa. 35:6-7)  

Like a bride who waits in eager expectation for her groom, so I long for the return of Christ, when righteousness will rule.  Even so come, Lord Jesus, come!

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