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Friday, April 15, 2016

Joy and Thorns

My favorite Christmas hymn, or even just anytime hymn, has always been Joy to the World.  The united song of Heaven and Nature grasps the all things seen, and not seen, reign of the King which will extend to the frayed edges of the curse.  Verse three says:

No more let sin, and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse if found . .

As the days stretch light until 8 pm (!!), and the frosty nights melt into temperate sunshine by noon, we are attacking a few curses around here.  Faulty plumbing, mildew, falling gutters.  And by we, I mean Scott, with me holding a ladder or handing an occasional tool.  Yesterday we ventured into our acres of woodland to finish reclaiming an old logging road, making a 4th path for hiking (my opinion) or ATV riding (everyone else's opinion).  We had noticed this contour in the hillside branching off from another path that Luke and his housemate Mike cleared a couple of months ago.  This one is steep, bumpy, narrow . . . and literally clogged with thorns.  Scott carried the chain saw and I carried the weed whacker.  While he attacked vegetation, I scouted a way to link this route to a larger path that my dad cleared long ago.  Which involves my favorite activity, trekking under soaring oaks, scratching through clusters of holly, startling a wood thrush, shuffling in leaves, tripping over wild grape vines, scouting a ridge.  By the time I settled on a good connection, Scott had hacked through a lot of brush on the old logging road.  And so the day went, cutting and clearing, hauling armloads of vines and branches off to make a path.

The sheer density of bramble is enough to make you believe in Genesis.  Any patch of sunlight engenders a dense thorny tangle.  When you pull them out of trees they snap your face, or poke through work gloves, drawing blood.  Such is the nature of the fight.

When the thorns were rooted in the path, I tried to pull them up.  If we just weed-whack them down, I know they'll be right back.  But the roots turned out to be larger than the vines themselves!  They are deep and dense, creepily sunless, tenacious.  Tiring to pull.

At some point in the afternoon I snapped a photo (see the long white root to the right), because I was humming Joy to the World in my head and I knew there was a good spiritual analogy here.  In my own life, I prefer the weed-whacker approach of sin management.  Clear out the poky prickly visible stuff that snags me, or hurts others.  Clean up the comments, the judgements, the reluctance to engage, the distance, the jealousy.  Make myself cheerier, more presentable, more what I think a 50-something mission leader should look like.

But those thorns just keep growing back, and it's a relentless cycle.  Unless the roots are pulled up, painfully, disruptively.  Roots of loving myself more than others, roots of disbelief that God is good and enough and good enough, roots of finding value in comparison or seeking comfort in success.

The sins, sorrows, and thorns; the broken places that we choose as well as those that we suffer as parts of this broken world, have a limit.  The way of the cross pulls up those roots for good, and slowly the Kingdom breaks in with flowers.  Or lichen.  The one above reminded me of a butterfly, the beauty-from-ashes symbol of transformation, something flying out of the rot.  That's us.  Good news.

1 comment:

lem said...

Thanks! I am all too often satisfied to do a little weed whacking in my life, and ignore the roots.