Friday Focus

Seeing The Future - By Pastor Rob Bryceson

In early September we moved into a new house. It was a huge downgrade from our old place, but a lot of different circumstances led us to believe that God was re-directing us to a new home for the next phase of our lives. There was barely enough time in the new home to paint some walls, get our things in, and do a bit of yard clean up before the weather turned cold and eliminated all outdoor work. Winter came early and lasted a long time.

One tree in our front yard was an overgrown and unruly monster. It hadn’t been trimmed or shaped for a long time. Its wild branches dangled to the ground blocking all sunlight to the landscape feature beneath. Its branches spread out in haphazard ways that made it look like a slob who had just woken up from a night of hard partying. It obscured the scenery to the park across the street and hid the house from view as well. We cut it back a bit and trimmed the lowest branches to get some semblance of shape back. Then winter set in. The leaves fell, the branches twisted this way and that and it remained a barren brown piece of sticks, devoid of all beauty and life for the next several months.

Spring came. As the rest of the world began to put forth buds and blossoms this tree remained dormant and lifeless. We cut it back some more. Flowers began to bloom elsewhere in the yard. Buds and leaves appeared on many other bushes and plants, but this tree remained a bundle of sticks and twigs. We wondered if we had gone too far and killed it in our overzealous pruning. It was ugly but it’s ugly had been reduced in size and looked under control now.

Finally, in late April it exploded over-night in the most beautiful pink blossoms. Underneath the tree, the ground below, which now received sunlight, burst forth with the beginning of plants and flowers that had not existed when we moved in. It was gorgeous and gave us a great delight when sat on our front porch to share a morning coffee or an evening beverage as we waved to joggers, mommies pushing strollers, and numerous dog-walkers who pass by all day long.

We didn’t know what we had. We had not lived in the house long enough to experience the different seasons, so we were unprepared for the beauty that emerged from the seemingly dead tree. Experience had taught us that something would emerge, this time more controlled and shapelier. But the blossoms were breath-taking, and the explosion of pink grew in size and beauty over the next few weeks. The flowers and plants emerging underneath had always been there but had been obscured and unable to grow in the shade of the overgrown tree. Someone who lived in the house before knew that the tree was beautiful and the plants beneath were lovely. It had all been carefully planned years before but then neglected. The neglect caused a loss that could only be regained by pruning and eliminating what was overgrown. Someone already knew what our tree would become, but they weren’t here to tell us, so we applied our best guesses from our own past experiences to reshape our tree.

In John Chapter 15 Jesus compared life in him to being like gardening, specifically he used the illustration of grapevines. He says in the first couple of verses there “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

There are times in our lives when it looks like God takes away so much that the loss looks like destruction and death. It feels like something was killed and won’t ever come back to new life and beauty. Often he is preparing instead for new growth to emerge that is lying dormant, blocked from receiving the warm attention that he desires to shine on what is already in us, but unable to flourish. If we only had the experience to see what is coming, we might be more patient, or careful. But we don’t have the experience to know the future and so we can panic or fall into depression or despair.

Take courage that others have experience. They have been through hard things and losses before us. Their stories can teach us what will emerge on the other side. If we don’t have the connection to learn from others, we are on our own, applying, our own guesses and past experiences to what we face. The church is meant to be a place where the isolation of going it alone is ended. Where the stories of others who have faced difficulties and hardships can be shared so that those of us who can’t imagine future blessing can receive hope. We aren’t meant to do this life alone. There is beauty coming.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.

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