“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” ~Romans 8:28
Every good gardener knows the necessity of pruning. Roses are beautiful, but to yield a rose the sharp edges of a blade must come out, a branch must be cut, and the dead must go. What’s left behind are jagged edges, crumpled petals, an open and bare wound. I feel very much like my newly planted and pruned rosebush right now. On April 23rd my father passed away. Words are very, very hard. The storm of death brings with it a tidal wave of feelings. Mostly I feel raw, bare, as though I were walking through life in a tunnel. Life spins by, as my three year old son likes to say “super-fast” but for now, for me, it is muffled. It is both a beautiful and tremendously hard privilege to sit beside one whose final moments on this side of eternity are imminent. All around me life continued to happen but in that small little hospital room in western Kansas, where the lights were dimmed, death slowed time to a snail pace. In that pace there is a keen awareness of each moment, each breath, each slow, quiet drip of a morphine pump. You learn in those quieted, poignant times what really matters in life. (Often it’s not what we previously thought used to matter either.) The past, however strewn it might have been by mistakes and timeworn hardships didn’t really seem to matter. All that mattered was the presence of being together and grace. Grace. Simple, sweet grace. Everywhere in that room, from a nurses quiet presence to strangers turned friends who were holding on to my hand and covering both my dad and I in a prayer circle, there was grace. Grace to be. Grace to let go. Grace to love. Grace to forgive. It’s a simple, hard, beautiful thing. In the presence of impossible crushing hard, grace magnified the still small quiet voice that brought peace and the reminder that “it will be okay.”
There is a children’s book written by Lysa TerKeurst that I love to read to my little. It is entitled “It Will Be Okay.” The story is about a fearful little fox and a timid little seed that don’t like change. Honestly, who of us really do? Death certainly changes the landscape of one’s life and turns it upside down and right-side up. I happened to read this story yesterday afternoon and could barely make it through the reading without a cracked voice and tear-stained cheek. Death is it’s own storm. I resonated with the little fox. “He was scared of the dark shadows. And the howling winds. And rain. And most everything. Little fox liked his comfy den under the big, tall trees in the nearby woods. He did not like being afraid.”
Key to the story however, and the “but” central to all of our stories, is the farmer who “was good, and the Farmer who was kind, and the Farmer who was always watching over them. Even when they didn’t know it.”
Truth. In the form of a children’s book. Grace. Simple, UNCOMPLICATED grace. God is always watching even when we don’t know it. He is present in the quiet hospital room as you sit next to a loved-one. He’s the anchor when everything else is tossing your emotions this way and that. He’s in the middle of the long work hours that seemingly never end. He’s the hand that sifts the job-loss before it ever lands in your own. He’s in every situation, in every corner of every room of the quiet corners of your heart that is never voiced. He is the calm. He is the peace. He is the voice that says, “it will be okay”.
“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.” Genesis 28:15
In the hard, in-spite of the hard, and through the hard. For the present their may be the stubble of an open wound, the remains of dried petals and ashes, but around the corner there is a season of new, a season to exchange ashes with beauty.
Could it be possible that pain is simply planting season for God?
In due time new growth will peek through the pain and there will be a beautiful, fragrant new rose. Wait for it. I promise it will come. It’s God’s way.
There will be joy in the morning. Color, sunshine, new hope. An altogether new and refined me that couldn’t be possible without the pruning, without the pain. Roots will be deeper and stronger than ever before and in time, in God’s precious and incredible way, should I allow Him to work His work in me, I will, Lord willing, be more who He wants me to be. I will be “planted”.
In the meantime there is the brokenness of fresh-turned dirt, sharp edges, and rain. If you stare at a raindrop long enough you will notice how everyone is different, unique, but very much alike in how fragile each one is. It’s amazing that some even manage to find a soft landing and remain held together in-spite of how their edges wobble and threaten to fall apart altogether. That’s how God holds us in pain. We may shake, we may wrestle, we may feel like life is muffled and altogether harsh, but we are held firmly together in his hands. In His hands, “it will be okay.”