This article won overall first place (in all categories) in the Faithwriters Writing Challenge for last week:
At the side of the barren field a tree stands stark and bare. A stone wall leads to its base, passes by and disappears over the horizon.
Exposed, naked and defenceless against the icy blast of winter, the tree seems to have died, with its branches stretched, imploring, to heaven.
Yet I have seen it all before, so I know the truth. This is not death. It is necessary; a time of restoration. Soon the icy blast will fade. Fresh new leaves, like the joyful chuckles of a new baby, will emerge and grow, clothing the tree once more with its summer splendour.
I think of the times when I have been laid bare, my sin exposed to the stark holiness of God; the cold winter of self-awareness and self-doubt stripping me naked….
I’m impulsive by nature and, I realise now, arrogant. I disregard, all too readily, the opinions of others, forcing my point of view, insisting I am right. And leading me into winter.
There was a time when my closest friend sensed God calling him to walk into a ministry that would probably mean his death. I was afraid for him. In my selfishness I tried to dissuade him, though he knew it was God’s will. Though I made it even harder for him to obey, he insisted. I was left, my selfishness exposed.
Then came the time I cannot forget. People opposed to the message of my friend came for him. I knew they wanted to kill him, and I didn’t want to die. So suddenly he wasn’t my friend any more. Pretending I was not part of his team, I managed to escape. But with so many regrets at my cowardice. As they murdered him, I died inside.
Exposed. Vulnerable. Wanting to cover up — but from whom? I have nowhere to hide from myself. Or from God. Holy God. Alone. Like the tree. Eden — fellowship with God — just over the wall, but with me rooted to the spot.
Cold winter. Yet it is restoration time, hidden growth time; a time when I discover who I really am and in doing so, discover who God really is. I know that in me, on my own, dwells no good thing.
Then I hear the sunshine of God, “Peter, do you love Me?’
Oh yes, give me the chance to say it again, to recant my denial. “Yes, Lord. I love you.” The tender shoots are forming. Spring is coming. Now that I know who I am, the grace of God can do its work in me.
“Peter, do you love me?”
Oh, my Saviour, You are the God of second chances. “Yes, Lord, more and more as I discover your grace, You know that I love you. Ask me again. Let me say it again.”
“Peter, do you love me?”
“My God, I stand exposed before You and yet You still love me. How could I not love You in return? Summer is here. I am ready to feed your sheep”