Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Solid Living Oak

Here's a picture I almost forgot about - Vinnie playing with two of our grandchildren.

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 1:3 which reads, "He [the man who delights and meditates in the law of the LORD] is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers"

I love this verse because it is easy to picture a happy, confident tree that stands tall and strong right along the banks of a stream. The rest of the psalm says that this tree has leaves that never wither and it always bears fruit. It's clear after reading this verse that when I am not strong, when I am lacking confidence (not in myself but in God's plan) I am not rooted in Living Water - Jesus!

I remember visiting my sister and her husband's first house. I admired an awesome tree - an oak, I think, right in the middle of the property. It was huge and completely covered in a beautiful vine. I asked her about it and she passed on some interesting information about the tree and the vine that I easily forgot - until now, now that Vinnie is gone. Someone told her that she had to be careful how she removed the vine off the tree. The vine was so deeply rooted to the tree that to simply chop it off, the tree would die. Interestingly enough, if the vine didn't get cut, the tree would die anyway. I find it amazing to realize that if the vine stayed entangled on the tree, the tree would die (and the vine would too eventually). But if the vine was not removed gradually, both would die anyway.

I never thought about that story during the five or six years that have passed since seeing the tree. The picture of this tree popped into my mind from out of the blue one day recently when I was praying for God to show me how to disentangle myself from various things in my life that Vinnie and I took on together but they were just too big to tackle alone. It seems pretty clear now that I've had time to think about this visual picture of a tree and a vine choking each other out, that there are many things that we can allow to strangle us. Some things may have been strangling us for years and we never saw it before, not quite, anyway, and once it is seen, especially if it involves another person or people, it can be very difficult to cut the strangling vine off! The vine might be a dependent adult child, or debt, or a lie that a family has kept a secret for years. It can be anything! I am on the hunt to recognize now, vines that may be trying to snuff me out. Really, it would be easy at this stage of my life to give up on life and wither away. After all, I'd get to be with Vinnie again - a lot sooner! But then there are people I want to remain alive for so I have to keep on living and living well.

In order to live well, I must not only plant my roots near Living Water (remain planted in God's Word) but also be aware of vines (sins and traps of Satan) that are attempting to snuff me out, choke me to death, and make the journey terribly painful in the process. The Bible puts it like this in 1 Peter 5:8 "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." If you've been looking for roaring lions, look out - it could be quiet, pretty little vines taking root in your life that will choke you out instead!

A woman at GriefShare quoted a saying for me one night. I can't remember exactly how it goes but the jest of it goes something like this - if you have an adult dependent on you, you are probably in the way of God. How's that for a powerful, convicting piece of truth?! I have had adults dependent on me in the past and am working on getting one more pealed off me now. It is important if I am to live and go on living. It's important for the other person because they too will die although it may feel like they are dieing while I snip them off me. And it's important that I get out of the way of what God wants to do with their life and mine! I wish I'd seen all this before Vinnie died because it would make it so much easier to move on with my life now. The person I am struggling with would probably have a kinder view of where I am at in this season of my life too - wondering who I am without my Vinnie. They seem clueless that there should be any struggle what so ever in my life - but I didn't see it before. I see it now. And isn't that how God works - in layers? I told you yesterday - layers like onions and onions stink! These hard things in life stink too but they are necessary to living well, living strong, bearing fruit and having meaning in life.

I am not sure sometimes what are all the things I am sad about in this time of my life - missing Vinnie or missing the old way of life, sadness to have to find a new way of life, losing the buddy that helped me think through everything - we thought everything out together. It's a combination of all these things I guess. But just as losing Vinnie is part of the journey God destined for me before I was even born, so is the release from things that keep me in the way of what God wants to do in my life, and stay out of the way of what God wants to do in the lives of those around me - especially those I am close to. It's a constant struggle to be in the right center, the right place with God and his world everyday, but if we are to live, really live, we must persevere to win the race we are asked to run (and win!).

Like the vine on my sister's tree, though, removing the 'stuff' in our lives that choke us, drown us, or weigh us down cannot always been done quickly. There is a measure of patience required to do it in a way that makes us come out healthy and repaired in the end. If you are one to pray for others, pray for me that I will be patient in this season - with my own healing and in relationships that need to get healthier in my life. I pray that I will become a strong, confident fruit bearing tree who draws it's strength from the source of Living Water, with leaves that never wither and without vines to choke me out to drown!


coolingstar9 said...

I fully understand that the life is not the same before and now.
Vinnie loved you so much and he surely want you to be happy and strong.
Wish you happy and healthy.

Gailie said...

Thank you, Coolingstar9. I attend GriefShare classes here in the area and was reminded of something that hit me right between the eyes tonight...I don't need Vinnie to live life. That might seem disloyal, it might seem simplistic, but for me, after the week I've had, this was a crucial point to move forward on. I only need the One who loves me most and most perfectly - my Heavenly Father. Vinnie did/does love me very much but God wants to take his place in all the ways I didn't have to turn to God before because before, I had Vinnie. I feel set free! and...I still love my Vinnie. How cool!