THE TREE.

Eliza, I need to tell you something. This tree is really important to me.

Instantly tears started welling up in my eyes and emotion overtook what I thought would be a simple moment. I couldn’t even get the rest of the words out as I spoke to my 7-month old daughter. 

I looked up and saw my two-year-old, Lydia, ahead, climbing on rocks with her dada. I held Eliza close and blinked through tears as I looked back at the tree and tried to get my words out. 

Do you remember our friend Jackie? Well, three years ago we came here just two weeks after her dada died. 

I paused again. Instantly my mind was filled with memories of those few weeks. The call from Jackie. The hospital. The funeral. Her decision to still come on our Work Week at Young Life’s Clearwater Cove—leading up to the clearest memory of all. A few nights in, during the scheduled “15 minutes of silence,” we sat down and wept together under the stars. I had no words, only prayers. 

This tree was planted in memory of Jackie’s dada.

I finally got the few words out, took a deep breath, wiped away a few more tears, and continued to tell Eliza the rest of the story. How Greg, who oversees landscaping at Clearwater Cove, came to me with the idea to let Jackie pick out the type of tree and the location to plant in memory of her father who had just died suddenly in a car accident. I remember seeing Jackie pick it out and plant it into the ground.

The tree.
a sign of life,
in the midst of
grief.

More than just showing Eliza this tree for the first time at this special place, this week at camp wasn’t supposed to happen. It was supposed to get canceled, just like everything else. I was overcome by tears in many moments throughout the week just being there. At Young Life Camp. In the midst of a pandemic. Not taking a single day for granted.

The losses of this season haven’t been easy for any of us, and some of us have lost more than others. This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. 

THE TREE IN THE GARDEN.

The Bible starts out telling us about a different tree. The tree of life that holds the knowledge of good and evil. God created humankind through Adam and Eve and gave them complete freedom in the garden with only one rule: do not eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15). Yet they were convinced by the Enemy’s promise for God-like wisdom and chose to eat the fruit from the tree and disobey God (Genesis 3:6).

The Enemy was wrong. The Enemy had deceived them. Instead of becoming like God, Adam and Eve were overcome by guilt, shame, brokenness, and fear. 

Because humankind turned away from God, sin entered the world. And because we continue to turn away from God every day, choosing to listen to the voice of the Accuser and give in to the desires of our flesh, sin reigns.

I don’t think I need to convince you that we live in a world still today where guilt, shame, brokenness, and fear reign. From a competitive pressure to be the best, the smartest, the prettiest or have the most—and we fall short of unreachable expectations—we are covered in guilt (you haven’t done enough) and shame (you’ll never be enough). Within a country that is so polarized that we are making the simple fact of ending racism or wearing a mask during a pandemic something that’s political—and no systemic solutions in sight—we are broken. And in the midst of it all, we are consumed by fear

I was listening to a new PitBull song recently and his words struck me: The only thing that spreads faster than any virus is fear. I think I shouted an “Amen!” back at PitBull through my car stereo the first time I ever heard that song. There’s never been a time in my life where I’ve seen this more present than during COVID-19. Our world is controlled by fear.

where is our
hope?
Where is our sign of life
in the midst of our
grief? 

THE TREE ON THE HILL.

When sin entered the world, God had a plan for restoration that involved another tree. Jesus was killed on a Cross, a tree stripped of roots and branches. In this undeserving death God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Hallelujah. 

Through faith in Christ, we are made right with God and our relationship with Him is restored! He frees us from guilt, shame, brokenness and fear through His blood shed on the Cross.  

This tree is now our
sign of life
in the midst of our
grief. 

And friends, this is good news. We have life and hope in the midst of the never-ending trials of this world because our hope is in a God who rose from the dead and is making things new. We believe that we were not merely created for a comfortable and happy life, a life that comes and goes like a breath in time, but we believe that God created us for a greater purpose. He has promised for those of us who believe in Him that as we put away our sin and love others, He will produce in us love, joy, and peace in place of our brokenness. 

He doesn’t just remove our sin. He redeems it. And as He rose from the dead, He calls us to rise.

Will you rise redeemed with me in the midst of your fear? Will you choose positivity and gratitude in the midst of a dark season of guilt, shame, or brokenness? Will you strive for peace with those around you, instead of division? Will you choose to believe that “He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6)?

Will you hold on to our sign of life (Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection) in the midst of our grief? 

He has called us higher than simply getting through. Just as He is the vine, and He has called us to be the branches and to bear fruit—fruit that will last (John 15:1-17). He has called us to pursue hospitality and love in the midst of physical distancing (Romans 12:13). He has called us to fight for racial justice in the midst of racism in our systems (Romans 2:11). He has called us to stand firm in our faith and use our voices to speak the truth in love, being a light to the world (Ephesians 6:13, Matthew 5:14).

I read this quote recently, written before COVID-19, but I believe it applies well: “Our goal in life is not simply to survive the current hard thing in hopes that it will be our last. Rather, we endure whatever God has for us to the very end, believing God’s promises even when we can’t see the outcome” (Risen Motherhood).

If you’re still reading, I pray there is something God has for you in all of this to encourage you. Take a deep breath. Go outside and sit in the shade under a tree. My friend, as He speaks, listenHe is our life

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