I couldn't help but think that nature is set up as the mightest of gardeners, fiercely peeling from these majestic and living tress the brittle and colorless leaves and lifeless wooden limbs. But I could almost imagine the trees dancing, exalting in the unexpected and ardent gift, joy-full to be free from the dead weight of it all. It reminded me of the passage in C.S. Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when Eustace, after several unsuccessful attempts to rid himself of the dragon form in which he'd been trapped by his own mechinations, is finally freed by Aslan from the rough and dry skin of the beast:
"Then the lion said--but I don't know if it spoke--You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.But then, I've been reading James lately, and it could be those first chapter of verses were leaning my thoughts in these directions:
"The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. . . .
"Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off--just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt--and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me--I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on--and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again. . . .
Consider it sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way . . .Transformation can be like this, this combination of a fierce pain along with unmatched reveling as we're freed by fierce winds, lion's claws or tests and challenges from itchy leaves, dead weight or a skin that's trapped us far too long. Not that I always approach it this way. In fact, far too often I don't. But James gets it right: it is a gift without rival.
In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life. (James 1:2-4, 21 The Message).
(Image: my driveway today)