I thought my redbud tree was diseased. Little black nubs grew in clusters, fungus-like, over the trunk and branches. I curled my lip in disgust. Still, I felt a tinge of sadness. It’s a lovely tree, and a red birdhouse sits snug in a crook between two branches. It would be a shame to lose it.
I ran my hands over the bark, easing them toward a little growth that was unlike the others. I leaned in to look. These black nubs were tipped with purple, where the dark skins had pulled away. I smiled and patted the unsightly trunk. This tree wasn’t dying. It was on the verge of flowering. In a matter of days it would be dusted with fragile purple flowers, shedding the deceptive skin that had so repulsed me, the skin that was merely the husk of something deeply beautiful.
My world, both without and within, has looked like that lately. To an outsider, a casual Facebook observer or website visitor, it must seem that I’ve done very little, that my work or my passion has dried up. My professional garments are wrinkled and stale. But behind the scenes, worlds are being mapped, covers designed, manuscripts edited, ISBN’s assigned. There is a flurry of activity in preparation for the birth of a new book.
The landscape of my soul is much the same. I’ve grown dry and scaly. This old skin has shrunk too small, and it chafes. My color is faded, lost beneath a robe of milky scales that pulls away oh, so slowly. It will take friction to loose me, and the initial tear may be painful, morbid, repulsive even. But when I emerge, when another layer of immaturity or impatience or self is sloughed off, I will be brighter. I know my unloveliness. I know my lack. But Jesus is formulating rich new color behind the scenes.
My fingers press lightly against the dry, feathery moss that carpets the ground beneath the redbud. It gives. There’s a gap between the moss and the thick-packed earth. There is air, and there are thin, distilled rays of light. There is life. Worms wriggle, and beetles scurry along unseen paths through the dim dark.
To the casual observer, it doesn’t look like much. But it is. And overhead, a humble redbud tree shames the skeptic, the insensate, flaunting its purple veil and leaning in to the wind.