When my heart was fast asleep
You were resurrecting me
I thought that I would never breathe
I thought the pain would never leave
But you’re redeeming everything
—Amanda Lindsey Cook, Awakening
A couple months ago, my hometown notified us that as part of a city beautification plan, they were going to plant trees along my street. A few weeks later, a stick appeared in our front yard. It seems that someone planted it there. But I never would have taken it for a tree.
Even though it’s about as tall as me, the poor thing is probably about half an inch in diameter. It’s suspended between two poles that are literally holding it up. It’s almost embarrassingly un-treelike. I’ve looked up and down our street at all the other trees that got planted, all of which seem to be doing a lot better—most of them are covered in leaves, take up more than one square inch of space and are, well, more tree-like. My family and I have joked that maybe the tree-planters were running low on nice trees, and then saw our front yard full of weeds and brown grass and decided this skinny sapling would be an appropriate fit.
Ever since it was planted, this little tree has been leaf-less, and almost branch-less too. Quite often I’ve wondered if it was even alive at all. It seemed so frail and weak, and there were no signs of growth or life at all.
But as I was exiting the driveway to my house earlier this week, I caught a flash of green from the corner of my eye. I did a double take and stared in wonder at the little tree: there were tiny, bright green leaves sprouting from its topmost branches. Nothing impressive at all. But in that split second as I saw the leaves, I felt in my heart God speaking to me: “This is you.” Tears started to my eyes and I knew that God had directed my attention to see those leaves on purpose.
I’ve thought a lot about that moment this week. And I’ve realized how much I do, in fact, feel like that tree.
I have felt fragile this year. I have felt weak and sometimes even barely alive. I’ve even been quite literally uprooted from a place where I had finally begun to feel secure and replanted back in a place where I no longer felt entirely at home.
It’s easy for me to compare myself to others, much like I did with our tree, and see how much better they appear to be, how much more happy, alive, or spiritual. And then to look at my own sad heart and feel ashamed for how little growth seems to have happened, or at least frustrated by how sad I feel so much of the time.
I’ve felt stuck in winter and honestly, it’s hard to remember when the last time was when I was not in winter. Ever since my sister’s adoption over seven years ago, I’ve felt a weight of sadness that has never quite gone away. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been joy and moments like a deep breath of fresh air. But if I step back and look at the overall color of these past seven-plus years, it is dark. It’s felt like I’ve been in a perpetual night, and while there have been bright stars that were moments of beauty, joy, and grace, they were only moments. Sometimes the bright periods lasted for several months. And I am deeply grateful for them. But I’ve often wondered if I would ever see daylight again—light that lasts.
Part of me wonders if this inexplicable joy I’m feeling now is just one of those moments. Maybe it is. Maybe this is just how life is. Maybe it’s presumptuous of me to assume that life is actually meant to be full of light and beauty and joy. Maybe most of life is dark, and that’s what makes the stars stand out all the brighter. Maybe human life here on earth is marked by sadness, and we will only ever experience everlasting joy in heaven. But I don’t want to believe that God is a God of darkness only. He works in and through the darkness, yes, but his deepest desire for me is joy, joy in him and in the life he has given me, right here and now, in my time here on earth. He is a God of resurrection life. Bringing dead things back to life is what he does and who he is.
These past couple weeks, I have felt more alive and awake than I have in a long time. I have felt God whispering small messages of resurrection to me, through beautiful music, solitary walks on the beach, unexpected tears and laughter, words spoken over me by a friend, the literal changing of the seasons, a scrawny treeling producing leaves.
I’ve wondered if I would ever feel spring again. But I think God has been showing me this week that he is doing something new. He is bringing life out of death. He is causing growth even when it feels like I will be stuck in pain forever. And how appropriate to celebrate this today, the day we remember Christ’s glorious resurrection from the grave.
This week for the first time, I truly believed in my heart that perhaps, this winter I’ve been in is almost over. The death and screaming and sorrow of Good Friday will one day give way to the triumph and life and joy of Resurrection Day. Perhaps this season I’m in is only a brief glimpse of light, like all the other brief moments before. But even if it’s short-lived, it’s still a reminder that one day, Christ will come again and bring with him everlasting light and joy and beauty that will never fade again.
Spring is coming. And it will be glorious.
“But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
— postscript —
Something that, I feel, has played a significant role in this re-awakening of my heart is the new album House on a Hill by Amanda Lindsey Cook. It has felt like a breath of fresh air to my soul. Her words and music have both wrecked me and put me back together, and I cannot recommend this beautiful album highly enough. Go give it a listen—or better yet, take an hour to spend just soaking in the powerful truths conveyed through these songs. Here’s a link to Amanda’s album on Spotify, as well as a link to the powerfully moving music video for the song Awakening, which I quoted at the beginning of this post. :)