"South Carolina is home to some of the most audacious trees I've ever seen. These old men with their mossy grey hanging beards seem to behave all wrong for trees. They have trunks, and that seems right. But here is where the rightness ends. Their branches start at normal places, but then reach out, around, twist and tangle all the way to the ground, out nearly as far as the tree is tall. It's as if they've spent a lifetime declaring God's glory, but their arms grew tired. So they found another way to worship, to reflect the glory of God. It's different, but no less beautiful."~Emily Freeman
The quotation at the beginning of this post are the very words that sold me on Emily's book for our study this summer. The beauty of her words captured my heart in an instant. The truth is, I was taken by Emily's words...but I was undone by the image above when it flashed on my screen as I searched " low country oaks." I wanted to see what these unusual trees actually looked like. This great beauty is the Angel Oak Tree in South Carolina. It is sixty-five feet tall, has a circumference of over twenty-five feet, and gives shade to over 17,000 square feet under its "audacious" branches. It has lived an estimated 1,400 years, surviving fire, hurricanes, earthquakes, war and the encroachment of civilization. And here it stands...yet. What it has weathered, stood up against...endured for over a millennia! I see this beautiful photo...an image well worth every cent I spent on it...and the art in the life of this oak as it reflects God's glory is obvious.
However, all this tree has to do is "just be"...for me there are just SO many excuses for not reflecting God's glory in my life. After all, I can look at myself and see every imperfection, every shortcoming, every shame, every sin. How in the world could I possibly reflect God's glory? I am a blurred, scratched up mirror for sure. So many things have stopped me...I am too young, too inexperienced, not talented enough or educated enough. I am too old...too late. My good years...my productive years slipped by...somehow, between too young and too old. When did that happen???? I imagine you might have your own excuses...a disability, a diagnosis, or maybe a history, a past that surely tarnishes any reflection you could have had. Or maybe something happened to you...divorce, abuse, rejection, or a sorrow or pain so great no light seems strong enough to penetrate the depression, bitterness, fear, or grief that cloaks your life.
And then God comes along and gives us object lessons...beautiful, breathtaking ones...like a 1400 year old low country oak who reflects God's glory in spite of. Or a small pine tree that grows in the midst of difficult circumstances to say the least...
What I learned this week from this chapter is really quite simple: If we are able to take a breath, we can reflect the glory of God in how we live our lives...our choice entirely. We are the living, breathing poem of God with unwritten stanzas left to live out...no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in...no matter what we have endured...there is good to be done, kindness to be shown, beauty to be created.
I had to smile as I read Emily's words toward the end of this chapter: "You need not go on a search party to find yourself." I wasted a lot of time waiting for that elusive "something" that proclaimed to me and the world I was "ready" to be who I was made to be. Circumstances would be perfect. I would have gathered all I needed. I would have finally found what I was made to do. THEN I could stop searching and waiting for my art. It really is much like having a baby. If you wait until you are ready...you will never be a mother.
I don't know about you; but, as I look back over the years, art has changed in my life. I wish I would have realized then that I didn't have to wait to create art. I wish I would have known that art was being created in my mothering and now in my grandmothering. It was in my teaching and now in ministering to women and parents. It was in my homemaking (as chaotic as it sometimes was:) and now in my gardening. I wish I would have known that all my reasons for hesitation were not keeping me from living the art He had created me to live. They were the diamond cut facets. It is a remarkable truth that God has created glory FROM my imperfections, my pain, my loss, my grief, and dare I say it...even from my mistakes and sin. It is because of His great goodness in my life that I can reflect any of Him in any glorious way.
I have a fun thought for this week...Please share your own pictures of God's "object lesson" in your life. Send a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org with a short explanation, and I will add them to our blog. Be creative and have a good time with this! Your story will bless others who read this blog and will reflect the Lord's goodness in your life:)
Reflecting His glory together, we would be blinding:)...in a good way!
Love and blessings!