I think of the constant heat in Phoenix, of dust storms. I think of the Planet Earth episode we watched on desserts, the waterless and extreme places where few organisms survive. I picture the dunes, the dryness, a tumbleweed blowing across an empty expanse. Brown. Brown, brown, brown.
I think of the Gorge--the waterfalls, the trails, the moss. I think of quietness and crashing waters, the life coursing down streams and clinging to every minuscule nook of rock. Green, overwhelming amounts of green and water and life arching over and carpeting beneath. Green, green, green.
I was imagining all of this because I read from Jeremiah 17 and Psalm 1 this morning. Both include vivid pictures of a vibrant, rooted, fruitful, established tree by streams in contrast to the brittle, isolated, perishing, chaff/shrub in the parched wilderness. Wow.
Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the dessert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is in the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jer 17)
I'm motivated by these pictures. Motivated to find myself near a stream. One line about the dry shrub stood out to me today—it 'shall not see any good come.' Does this mean nothing good will ever happen? Or does it mean that it can't recognize the good?
The qualifications for shrubs sound extreme—for a good person like me! Listen:
--'walks in the counsel of the wicked'
--'stands in the way of sinners'
--'sits in the seat of mockers'
Wicked, sinners, mockers. I don't know many of these people, do I? I've never met someone like Hitler.
But stop. Lots of people aren't trying to be wicked, sinners, mockers. But in the past few days it's been one of my husband's professors, a well-meaning neighbor, people we work with, the "counsel" of NPR or National Geographic or most movies, doctors...uh, basically anyone who is not in a worshipful posture towards God. Who is a sinner? Me—when I sin! Me giving unaligned-with-God advice to a friend.
When I 'trust in man,' 'make flesh my strength,' 'turn my heart from the Lord,' when I worry about the future, spend more of my heart gathering information from experienced people than I do trusting the Creator, when my emotions are more subject to a doctor's words than on who I know God to be, when I freak out because now both cars are leaking, when I attempt to power thru or pull myself up by my bootstraps, when, when, when. Confession. That's when I'm living like I belong on a dune.
The tree-style life takes a lot more diligence. Since it's so counter-cultural it requires abnormal levels of commitment and watchfulness. The instructions are simple:
--'trust in the Lord'
--'trust in the Lord'
--'delight in and meditate on his instruction'
This takes time and heart-training. But the results of having roots by streams of living water? Heat's not something to fear; its leaves stay green. Drought's not something to cause anxiety; it continues to produce fruit (tangerines or pomegranates or love, peace, patience).
This is the blessing and prosperity that I seek. I confess it's a battle constant and unrelenting. But wow! That green tree is who I want to be! Oh, Lord, may I grow green and fruitful, rooted and established in the love that's beyond knowledge.
AnnaBurnham blogs at Living My Life.