Friday, May 14, 2010

The trees of the field

I missed the unfolding of my last spring in the South, which means I missed my last dogwood season. The best of my childhood memories are dusted with these four-pedaled blossoms that descended upon the Southern forest every spring like snow in colder climates. I would decorate my dark hair with their contrasting whiteness. I would weave them into wreathes and wear them like a crown of pure simplicity.

But I was in Italy the entirety of this spring’s dogwood season, and at the end of the summer I will be moving back to the Midwest where I was born, trading the spring snow of dogwoods for the colder fall-winter-spring snow of the flatlands, trading my green cottage for whatever residence I could manage to find at this unfamiliar place.

Not to be outdone by dogwoods or green cottages, God began demonstrating his ability to take care of me right away, and the last week of April found me and my mom hopping into the car for a whirlwind 13-hour-drive to put an offer on a restored, 100-year-old, 3-bedroom house two miles from campus that I can easily afford to buy with my graduate student stipend. My neighbors range from agnostics to theology majors, from pagans to Mennonites to Catholics, from case workers to those the cases they work on to graduate students. My house is fully restored with its original hardwood floors and plaster walls, with newer additions like the windows and appliances and wiring and ceramic tile and vinyl siding. After adding a couple green accents and a garden, this house could be home indeed.

God is not looking for sacrifice, he keeps reminding me; we are mistaken to confuse the looseness of the follower's hold on his possessions with God's alleged desire to take them away. There is a deep mystery woven into every blossoming spring that, despite the brokenness of creation and the suffering of his servants, God does not tease us with goodness that he takes away. Again and again, God reveals his high superfluousness, his gratuitous beauty and mundane magic, and when I prepare places for faith God turns around and prepares places for me. Abraham, I recall, did not demonstrate a faith that declared "My God, good or evil!" but a faith that was willing to step out to where God's goodness would be tested. Again and again, God passes the test.

At any rate, there in my new neighborhood in that whirlwind trip in the last week of April, the dogwoods were in full bloom. I guess they do grow in some parts of the Midwest.
For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.


Anonymous said...

When life was crazy as a child in a dysfunctional home, I would climb a tree at the edge of the field (I had a favorite tree for this) and make it sway violently and sing my heart out. I think the trees were clapping their hands.

God is good. He even lets you have dogwoods.

NC Sue said...

What a lovely surprise it must have been to find dogwoods while you begin your sojourn as a "stranger in a strange land".

God is indeed good!