On a typical day at Orchard House, we get some pretty powerful sun rays streaming in our living room windows. I like them. They help pay my heat bills. When Spring arrives, though, we don’t need quite so much natural heat. By late evening, I often feel smothered by high temperatures and thick air. One day last week was particularly warm, so I stepped outside on the back deck, read one of my favorite authors, Elisabeth Elliot, and munched on a glass of ice — a necessity for anyone who is anemic (the ice, not Mrs. Elliot).
After I sat and read and munched a spell, I got an itch to walk. Problem was, the street out front gets so busy, I was nervous to step anywhere near it. To do so would be to trust the crazy drivers who habitually peel out at a nearby stop sign, which is a horrible idea. It gets so drag-racey out there, that every time I approach my mailbox which sits about two feet off the road, I end up envisioning my obituary:
Brenda Coats, Author and Dearly Beloved Wife and Mother was killed by a testosterone overloaded teen driver who couldn’t wait until he got home to check his phone. An ironic twist to Brenda’s untimely death is that the teen was reading one of her hilarious blogs at the time of the accident. All donations will be given to the Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Whilst iPhoning Organization.
In all seriousness. One itty bitty, split-second distraction is all it’d take for someone to veer off the road and thwack me dead. Hence the reason I usually let Shaun retrieve the mail. Plus, he’s the one with life insurance.
And I also digress.
I didn’t want my fears of getting “runned over”, as my Grandson calls it, to nix my walk. So I imagined a trail on our property and started walking, figuring if I circled the property enough times, the imaginary trail would eventually become real. Round and round I went, as many times as my legs could tolerate. I ran across weeds, dirt, wild flowers, tulips, and a scrawny tree we thought for sure we’d have to chop down when we moved in. It’s still a little scrawny, but it has enough life for me to hold off using it as firewood. I even feel a bit of a special bond with the thing, as it appears we’ve been put in the same exact struggle of trying to keep healthy, thriving, and perky. Even our limbs look oddly similar: twiggy and pathetic.
Among other foliage were some hardy, purple flowers. I had never seen them before moving here, so I have no idea what their official names are. But whether I water them or not, every Spring, they sprinkle themselves around the property like pixie dust. The watered ones thrive. The dry ones thrive. I thought, Maybe I’ll dub them the Apostle Paul Flowers, as they seem to be able to adapt and be content in whatever situation God places them.
Then I came across the Calvinistic flowers. The tulips. Like the Apostle Paul flowers, they are hardy. Vibrant, too. But fleeting. They show up for a few weeks and then Poof! Gone until next year. I’m glad God isn’t like that. So many days in my forty-four years my heart wondered if He didn’t vanish like a Spring tulip. But looking back, I can see that He remained. I couldn’t always see evidence of His presence (must not have been looking to nature). I couldn’t always feel him. But in spite of my faithlessness, He remained faithful. He has never left or forsaken me over the years, and I strongly and rightly suspect He will never do so in the future.
Later in the walk, I spotted piles of leaves and sticks and tumbleweeds that our very handsome farm boy, Andrew, had raked into piles. All of it was crunchy. Deader than dead, waiting patiently to be thrown into a bigger pile, and eventually a pit of fire. I shivered and kept walking, not wanting to think about the fact that some people, though they walk around covered in living flesh, are spiritually dead, also waiting to be thrown into a pit of fire unless God reaches down and saves.
I know, I know. Nobody preaches hell these days. It’s probably politically incorrect. But alas, it’s a real thing. A literal place. God is mercy, as everyone loves to admit. But God is not just mercy. He is also just.
Leaves, both dead and alive. Flowers, needy and not so needy. More flowers, fleeting. Trees, not mirroring the deeply rooted, healthy, Psalm 1 tree. Nature is beautiful. But nature also groans. It’s not what it should be. Nor is it what it’s created to be. It struggles. Sighs. And seemingly cries its wonderings of “how long, O Lord?”
The parallels to nature and us are many. Though nature is vibrant with life and color, it is also plagued with a need for complete and total redemption. It struggles in a fallen environment and eventually dies. But neither death or sickness are forever. We (you and me and nature) may groan, but even our groaning is temporary. There’s coming a day when the sadness and stresses of fallen life will be no more. For now, we groan for redemption. For things to be set right. And yet we also rejoice, because though much of life seems like wading through the dark deadness of Friday ….. Sunday’s comin’.