Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Woman in the Tree

 She’s going again, obscured by the green leaves of the oaks above the apartment. All winter I watch her and try to figure out if she means to convey anything beyond my own warped projections.
            Some people see shapes in clouds. When I was a child, I saw a rabbit face in the grainy wood of my bedroom closet and innumerable people and things forming patterns on the bathroom linoleum floor. Now I have a woman in a tree outside my house.
She’s shaped quite like a ship’s masthead, bravely heading into the wind. One of her arms is outstretched to the south. During the worst of winter, I am convinced she is urging me to return to Florida, where I lived for seven years and where I saw snow only once.
“You read the face of the sky but do not discern the signs of the times,” Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, that most righteous of the Jewish people (Matthew 16:3). I sympathize with those Pharisees. It’s so much easier to figure out the meaning in a tree branch than to interpret the times in which I live.
It’s easier now on personal level, though, than it was when I was the age of the young people I’ve taught in Sunday School. I always try in subversive ways to preach the advantages of aging, so that they don’t get caught in the trap of desiring perpetual youth in either their thinking or their appearance. One of the biggest pluses of aging for me is having a track record of God’s good work in the world and in my life. With time and hindsight, it’s easier to see the truth of Paul’s words, “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (I Cor. 2:9).
Julian of Norwich, the medieval mystic, closes her Revelations of Divine Love with a question to God: What do these visions mean? She waited fifteen years for an answer, which is a considerable time to wait, even with a track record. At last, the answer came.
“What, do you wish to know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did he reveal to you? Love. Why does he reveal it to you? For love.”
God’s purposes in our lives are for good. God is for us, on our side. Spring makes it easier for me to remember this and to rejoice in it, even without the guidance of a tree pointing south.

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