Our front yard had a row of Lilly Pilly trees. Eleven years ago, when we planted them, we delighted in their evergreen shiny foliage, the edible purple fruit enchanting us, and their density perfect as appropriate hedge.
At the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, my husband and I decided to take them down, roots and all (as a major project to ease boredom). We noticed they were not as healthy as before, and were obstructing the growth of our lemon and citrus trees which we loved as they provided fruit all year round. It was hard work, but the best thing we did for our front yard, as it opened up the landscape, allowed the fruit trees to bloom and bear more fruit, receiving needed sunshine and eliminating competition for water and moisture.
Similarly, in our lives, there are seasons, when people, events, circumstances, work environments are taken away from us. We are saddened and we grieve at those moments of loss and detachment, only to realise that much growth follows after these tribulations.
During my spiritual renewal in 2000, I witnessed this – friends, community, activities, events that I enjoyed so much were taken away, creating a huge vacuum. It was a painful journey, for the days were longer, the nights were darker, and all I was left with was the question “why Lord?”
Slowly, He made me realise that there are periods when He wants me for Himself, and away from the mad rush, able to talk to me and touching me deeply, instructing me of His ways, instead of the world’s. And because He satisfies completely, I started not to mind it at all, gently welcoming the isolation, seclusion, aloneness, the quietness and rest.
Under COVID-19, we have been placed in a similar situation, when by “force” we were put into lockdown, restrictive life, stripping our existence to what is essential. Never in our wildest dream did we think it will happen in our generation, shocking us that a virus can hurt so much.
Some of us have been losing hope, unable to find meaning and purpose, as we wonder how we will cope.
Others remain hopeful, discovering the hidden treasures of this barren field, learning new skills and creative endeavours, clothing ourselves with dignity, strength, resilience, humility, obedience, wisdom, joy. Still others are moved by heroism and genuine love, running the extra mile as they serve and give their lives in the service of others. Our frontliners, much like my Lilly Pillies, had to offer themselves as a living sacrifice so others can live, grow and develop.
We have all been placed in a position of waiting… waiting patiently for a breakthrough… when our lives return to normal.
It is good to return to “normal”, (if there is such a thing – as health authorities keep saying there could only now be COVID normal) as long as the significant lessons of the past are learned and not forgotten.
What have I learned? That I could live a much simpler life. That there is no need to carry so much luggage after all. I used to cart a few bags when I left the house for work, ministry or community events. Now with COVID-19, I only bring a small lunch bag – quick to reach for my wallet, phone, a mask and sanitiser.
We have also detoxed our home, removing excess decorations, furniture, knick- knacks, but our garage is bearing the brunt of it all. Indeed, we are waiting for the restrictions to ease so we can give away much of these. As I struggle to move my way around our garage, I feel overwhelmed, dismayed, wondering how we have accumulated so much stuff. Similarly, this is maybe how our spirit feels when we are choked with the many worries, anxieties and attachments of modern living. I yearn for the space, the freedom, the room to breathe more freely.
When I look out my window, I seem to miss my Lilly Pillies, but when I see my lemon trees dancing happily in the sun, their fruit ripening to golden yellow, and more blossoms abounding, I relate them to those who serve, who give up their own so others might live.
For most of us, it is patient waiting, as encouraged by Isaiah 40:31 “but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.”
From age to age, we see God hear the cries of His people and empowers them. It is said that God not only protects His people with His wings, but He bestows on them wings of their own, an unusual gift of divine power. We only need to believe and wait patiently.
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Magenta Lillypilly | John Tann from Sydney, Australia, CC BY 2.0