I'm currently reading a new book, The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, A Memoir...and although the beginning was kinda slow, I've really started to enjoy it. Before I even hit 50 pages, I've already had a few lines speak to me.
It wasn't just any tree. It was an ancient Joshua tree. It stood in a crease of land where the desert ended and the mountain began, forming a wind tunnel. From the time the Joshua tree was a tiny sapling, it had been so beaten down by the whipping wind that, rather than trying to grow skyward, it had grown in the direction that the wind pushed it. It existed now in a permanent state of windblownness, leaning over so far that it seemed ready to topple, although, in fact, its roots held it firmly in place...One time I saw a tiny Joshua tree sapling growing not too far from the old tree, I wanted to dig it up and replant it near our house. I told Mom that I would protect it from the wind and water it every day so that it could grow nice and tall and straight.
Mom frowned at me. "You'd be destroying what makes it special," she said. "It's the Joshua tree's struggle that gives it its beauty."
Now I know we've all heard variations of this type of story, I remember Joyce Meyer's using a version with a baby eagle, but there are so many elements to this one that make it reach me even deeper. First off I love the name of the tree, it reminds me of Joshua in the bible, like the tree standing strong he was one of the only two Israelites who left Egypt to get to see the promise land after 40 years in the dessert. Because he had faith in his God and knew that God kept His word.
"No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:5-9
"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." 1 Corinthians 10:13
All those who have accepted Christ are children of God, we are sons and daughters! Heirs of the King! But we, just as the Joshua tree was made to withstand the wind and dessert weather, are made to withstand.
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[c] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." Ephesians 6:10-13
Its our struggle against all the opposing forces that shape us into who we are. If we never had any battles, we would never learn how strong our heavenly Father is, how much He loves us, adores us...like any relationship its the hard times that help the relationship blossom and the two people together even more. We learn more of God's character, and more of the character He created us with.
A friend of mine on facebook put up two statuses that God spoke to me though at around the same time:
"When you believe in Jesus you are saved, when you realize that Jesus believes in you, it will radically mess you up!!!!"
and "Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable"
The more you learn and trust in Jesus and His unmerited favor (grace) that He blesses us with if we choose to accept it, the more battles we will have to endure to truly grasp even a fraction of the love Christ really has for us. Until you have a hard battle, you never know you could endure that battle through His strength. Until Peter stepped out of the boat to walk on the water, He never knew that through Christ, he could. Before Job lost everything he had built around himself, he never knew-or would have probably believed-that he even could endure so much hardship though our Father. He never understood or grasped a fraction of the full power and love of the amazing YAH. I never knew I would be able to endure a Father with a tumor for 15 years, an eating disorder, running 13.1 miles, or even my biggest battle I'm currently undergoing~myself, until He brought me though all of them (and still is) with His peace and love. Holding me the whole way, cradling me, embracing me and capturing all my tears, crying some of His own while watching me go though these battles. We have to be afflicted to find the true comfort that comes from Jesus.
On a date, hiking Sweet Water Creek, Ga., after our picnic walking back we passed a tree covered in knotts and while my date thought it was hidious, I found it strangly intreguing, beautiful. I think this is how the world sees us, our battles look ugly and they don't understand. They are outside of His peace, they are looking down at the problem and down at themselves. But through the eyes of God, when we keep our focus on things above, on Christ, on our Father above who guides us through His love, we are beautiful!
We, like the little girl, try to protect ourselves, hide from the hardships, from the wind of the world that tries to tear out our roots, but that will just kill us, destroy our beauty. We cannot grow strong without something (or someone) to fight against.
When we are planted in Christ...having done all, we WILL STAND no matter how the wind pulls at us. No matter how the battle is perceived from the outside world.
And while we feel ugly, forgotten and alone in the cold dessert night, all the time God stands beside us, painting our lives into a personal and unique masterpiece, beautiful and unlike any other on earth.
my next painting, I think I too want to paint a Joshua tree...my Joshua tree...