Tree of Mystery

April 10, 2010   By Angie Smith
Just before Easter I was driving the kids over to see my parents (they live about 2 minutes from me) and we were talking about all the beautiful trees that had blossomed overnight. The whole neighborhood was transformed by bursts of lavender, pink, and pure white and it looked like something out of a movie. They even blew across the road as we drove and we all oohed and aahed at the Lord’s handiwork.

“Which one is your favorite, Kate?”

She pointed out at a tall white tree that looked like it was covered with snowballs, keeping her finger pressed to the window as it faded out of sight.

“That one is my favorite, mommy.” Abby chose what looked like hydrangeas. It might not have been. I know nothing of plants with the exception of the fact that the mere sight of my face makes them wither and die. I’m pretty sure a rosebush I planted a few years ago picked up its roots and replanted itself in our neighbor’s yard. She has a belt with gardening tools and a hat that’s roughly the size of New Mexico. She also has a little pad to kneel on. I don’t blame the roses.

“How about you, Ellie? Got a favorite?”

She watched as the houses passed us and then a few seconds later I heard her say quietly, “That one, mommy. That one is my favorite. It’s the prettiest one on the whoooole street. That’s what I think.”

“Oh, I see it! Those pink leaves are such a cool color, aren’t they? I would wear one of those behind my ear for a date with daddy!”

“No, momma. Not that one. The one next to it.”

I slowed down the car because I hadn’t really seen one next to it. I asked her where she was looking.

“There. Right there.”

I made a confused face and looked at her in the rearview mirror.

“I think it’s dead mommy. It doesn’t have anything on it. But it’s the prettiest one.”

I just sat and waited, fascinated by the fact that out of everything we were looking at, that was the one she chose.

“Tell me more, hon.”

“Well…it looks dead, but I love it because everyone picks the fancy ones and that one might be keeping a secret. Maybe it’s flowers haven’t come out yet, or maybe it’s just pretending to be dead. Nobody knows what that one is going to do. So I think it’s the most beautiful.”

I sat stunned with my hand on the gearshift, unable to even put it into drive because I so felt the presence of the Lord. He uses my girls so many times when He is speaking to me and I know from experience that it’s best to just be still and soak it in.  I smiled at her and after a few minutes we headed on to see my family. It wasn’t until later that night that I settled in for some quiet time and opened the Scripture to the story of Christ’s resurrection. If I absolutely had to pick, I think John is my favorite Gospel account. I do love to compare and contrast them all because the different perspectives are amazing, but I always seem to end up in John.

While I asked the Lord to prepare my heart for Easter and speak to me through His Word (try it sometime if you haven’t…He won’t fail to show you something you need to read. But don’t do the whole “I’m going to open to anywhere and that’s what you want to tell me” thing, because you will usually end up in some kind of confusing lineage chapter. Seriously. And if you have done this, back me up here, people).

I began with the crucifixion. Slowly, deliberately, ever mindful that the Lord was stirring in me a new understanding. I have read it at least 45 million times (give or take 44 million or so) and it is so easy for it to feel rote. I know what happens next, and then this, and then this…okay, done. But as I moved into the part about His resurrection, I started thinking about what Ellie had said and I felt like part of the story took on new meaning to me.

Jesus died on a cross.

He was prepared for His burial and placed in a tomb that was blocked by a stone.

Early the next day, some of His followers went to visit the tomb and He was gone. His linens were there, but He Himself was not.

Eventually, everyone realizes it’s a miracle, but at first they think He has been stolen and they are heartbroken over the fact that someone has taken the body of their Lord.

The women see the risen Christ and they believe. Shortly after, He appears to another group and after walking through a wall, asking for a little something to eat, and letting Thomas touch His wounds, there is a consensus that He had actually done what He said He would.

So that’s the (very brief and detail-lacking) synopsis of the miracle of the resurrection.

But here’s the thing I think is interesting.

We don’t know when He actually rose from the dead.

We don’t know what happened in that dark tomb between He and His Father. We have no visual for that exact moment, other than that He had arranged his linens neatly before He left, which, I think is very polite for a man who just woke up from death.

Sometime in the dark of night, in a sealed tomb, a miracle happened. And nobody knew it at that time.

It wasn’t until the next day that they were privy to the beautiful truth.

It struck me that in a sense, we are living in that moment. We are weeping in our homes, crying out by an empty tomb, begging to see that we haven’t been duped. That He isn’t going to let us down and leave us to face the fact that it might have all been a hoax.

We walk side by side on the dusty road to Emmaus, never knowing that He walks alongside us. We are already weeping with discouragement, unaware of the footsteps of the Holy being imprinted next to ours.

You see, friends, we don’t get to be in the tomb. There is a gap of time between the miracle itself and when we get to see the evidence of it.

We walk in that gap everyday.

I think that many of His loyal followers probably thought He was dead and gone, and that they had been deceived. As far as I can tell, there weren’t groups of people huddled around His tomb crying out and awaiting His exit. They were bundled up with their children, miles away, left with only their imaginations, and during those very moments, guess what?

He rose.

The beautiful, resilient flower that we call our Christ was dead. Or so it seemed.

I am shattered by the humble recognition that somewhere in the night, there is a divine plan that I am unaware of. While I tuck my children into bed and pray for Him to have His way and live within my every thought, I will remember the tomb. I will remember the long, winding roads that I must walk to see His face. I will anticipate the moment where the bread is broken and I fall face first before Him in worship.

I will continue to choose the tree that has secrets.

I will not be enticed by the blooms that fade quickly, but rather allow myself to live in the mind of a seven year old who realizes that the most amazing thing we can look to in this life is the part that is hidden, waiting for rebirth.

I believe with all my heart that one day I will be in the presence of the One Who watches my Audrey, and I will thank Him for the moments He gave me here on this earth in the presence of a crooked, weathered tree that I could have given up on long ago.

And in that place, I will know the secrets. I will understand the mystery. I will cling to it’s truth and bow my head in reverence.

Beautiful Savior, may all the world see you in the midst of the blooming and choose to believe that Your splendor is waiting, somewhere beyond the brittle branches, and may we live lives that glorify the Man Who made light in the darkness of a tomb…

Soli Deo Gloria.

(Photo Credit: Campbelltown)

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