All winter, we’ve held our breath. Month after month, we’ve waited to see if this tree could just hang on and survive.
You see, last summer- shortly after moving in to our new house- we had a gigantic pine tree cut down in our yard. We loved that tree, but it really was huge. And practically inches (okay, feet. whatever.) from our house. And it had some ominous-sounding Pine Tree Disease. And was going to fall on our house and onto our slumbering children any second. Or maybe that’s my anxiety talking. Regardless, we had it chopped down.
But as all good environmentalists know, one must replant a tree for every tree cut down. Or something. Actually, let’s be real- we just wanted our shade back. Either way, that’s precisely what we did. We dug up a tree from our neighbor’s yard and replanted it in ours. (WITH THEIR PERMISSION, DUH. Come on, people.)
And ever since that day we (read: my husband and company) did the hard work of uprooting and replanting, we’ve all been borderline-obsessive about monitoring the thing. “Do you think it’ll survive?” we’d ask. “Do you see any signs of life?” “Uh, I guess we should just keep watering it.” And so, Matt would stand out there in the cold, watering the tree. We doubted the tree would even survive- that there was any life in its limbs- but we kept watering it. Waiting for spring. Because that’s exactly what our more-knowledgable-than-us neighbor kept instructing us to do: “Just wait. Just wait ’till spring. Then, you’ll see.”
That dang tree has been a metaphor for so much in my life this year.
As many of you know, I didn’t want to move last year. I knew we were supposed to move- that it was the wisest decision for our family- but I did. not. want. to. I liked the comfort and predictability of where we were. I loved my job. I loved my people there. And, perhaps most of all, I was scared to leave behind a season marked by God’s goodness. Sure, it was a stupidly hard seven year season, but God’s presence was so near to us then that I, quite honestly, was scared to leave.
I doubted God’s goodness and His promised presence to follow us wherever we went and in whatever we did.
Could new life flow from this change? From this loss? I wasn’t convinced.
I think that’s why my eyes have been so fixed on this scrawny little tree. Why I’ve been rootin’ for it all winter. To remind me once again that life does indeed spring up from death. That change can be crazy hard and that, sometimes, we’ll find ourselves holding our breath and asking, “Will we even make it?”
We’ve experienced this in our marriage before. Hard seasons. Seasons in which, to be perfectly candid, we just faked it ’till we made it. Seasons during which we just. kept. going. Watering and watering and watering, even though vibrant life was nowhere to be found. But we kept working at it, knowing full-well that if we gave up- if we stopped putting in the effort- we could be writing our own marital death sentence.
When we first uprooted and replanted our tree, every single leaf dropped off of its limbs. It looked dead. For months. But we (Matt) kept putting in the work, faithfully watering it, tending to it. Watching.
Just last week, we saw the first signs of life. Tiny new buds that have since turned into tiny new leaves. Life.
I know this whole life-from-death thing is so cliché this time of year. Because, spring! Yay! But y’all, it just does not grow old to me. Even if I’m not currently in a season of loss or death, I can point to so many who are. And I can all-too-easily recall seasons in my own life in which I was just grasping for signs of life.
Here’s the thing. Not one of us can escape pain in this life, though some might become better acquainted to it than others. Some of us will experience profound loss. Insensible suffering. Death too soon, leaving behind tears, brokenness, and certainly no signs of imminent life. Our feelings may tempt us to believe that death and darkness have won. Because it sure as heck can feel like it.
But that’s precisely when I’m glad that my feelings do not decide the truth. Because, the truth? The grave remains empty. It’s what so many of us will celebrate this Easter weekend. We’ll sing the songs and we’ll hear the preaching and we’ll be reminded that LIFE does indeed prevail. That the most stunning portrayal of life from death is found in God’s son, Jesus.
Some uprooted trees just won’t make it.
Some marriages, despite all the best efforts in the world, fail.
Some people die too soon.
And some things in this life just straight-up suck.
But, Jesus. He died, stayed dead for three days, and then HE ROSE.
Death taunts us every day. But life prevails.