One of the treasures I picked up at the conference was the book Watching the Tree Limbs by Mary DeMuth. I was a little apprehensive about this story, given its content (childhood sexual abuse) … but this story is anything but depressing. The difficult parts are handled with poetic finesse, and though painful they may be, hope and redemption thread through the story in an ever-brightening ribbon, culminating in joy and triumph.
I hadn’t yet begun to read the book when I happened to win its sequel, Wishing on Dandelions, during a recent online interview at my friend Tiff’s blog. At that point, however precious my reading time, I decided it would be expedient to at least start the first one.
Well. Once begun, I could hardly put it down. Fortunately, the second book arrived when I was about halfway through the first, so I was able to plunge right ahead.
Mary’s work has always moved me, from the time I first discovered her blogs (RelevantBlog and Pioneer Parenting). Hers was the one conference workshop I was able to attend—and wonderful at that—just what I’d needed to hear, echoing all the deep lessons the Lord has put me through the last year and more.
Reading these two novels afforded a taste of that all over again … but one passage in particular made me set the book down and just savor the fragrance of the Breath of God.
A brown hand rested on Maranatha’s knee, warm like an oven mitt after handling a hot cookie sheet. “It’s about weakness, Natha.”
“What do you mean?”
“God doesn’t call us folks to be strong. He calls us to be dependent, weak even. That’s when He shows up—in our weakness. I knows you can’t testify. I knows it will stir all sorts of scorpion nests in your heart. Truth is, you can’t do it—like you said.”
“Yes, that’s what I said.”
“But God can.”
Those three words made no sense to Maranatha. What could God do? He didn’t protect her from General, at least not initially. He didn’t protect Uncle Zane from a stroke. God watched as Maranatha sat in white-knuckled terror in Jake Gully’s red truck. What could God do? Maranatha sucked in a breath. “Sometimes God seems far away, Zady. I’m not sure He’ll show up to help the likes of me.”
“I guess that’s where faith comes in.” Zady hummed “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand.”
“Here’s how I see it. God puts you on this earth to love folks. Show ‘em His love. He takes you through terrible trouble so you’ll understand all sorts of folks. And now He’s asking you to obey Him. He shows up after the obedience, child.” [page 266-67, Wishing on Dandelions]
Weakness … and obedience. These two things the Lord has been dealing with me on in the last several weeks.
We try so hard to be something for God … to be strong … and plenty of Scriptures seem to support the need for this. Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Be strong and courageous. But we forget that it is not OUR strength, OUR courage that we stand on … but His. It takes bravery to admit that we are but flesh and blood, and as the old Petra song says, “without Him we can do nothing.”
Several weeks ago, God called me to temporarily set aside the story of my heart, and then confirmed it in several different ways … critiques that reveal weaknesses in both the early chapters and the overall story … the usual impressions of the Spirit upon my heart … and as research for the historical keeps falling into my lap, the storyline continues to crystallize. At more than one point, I’ve been in tears, struggling to surrender to the death of my own expectations and the higher (and much better; I know this—but my heart is so stubborn) purpose of God, whatever that is.
And His purpose is exactly that—His. If I say with my lips that He is God, but then refuse to submit to His hand and his timing … am I not a hypocrite? If God has spoken to my heart that this death is just for a season, that He can and will resurrect it, and yet I struggle and weep over its apparent loss … is that not a lack of faith?
Perhaps not … His strength is made perfect in weakness, after all. Sometimes I need to be brought to that point where I have nothing left of my strength before His can take over.