Shelter

How’s the heat treating you? Quite an endurance challenge no doubt. Hopefully the end is in sight and there will be some reprieve even without the sound of rain. This is when the water underground is desperately needed and so appreciated.

The garden is full of shrubs, flowers, vegetables and trees. Many are wilting and we are diligently watering and nurturing them at all times of the day, even placing umbrellas strategically over some as the sun beats down. A chickadee couple built a nest in the clematis next to the front door. Over the weekend there was a flurry of activity and then all fell silent on Monday. I peered in and found a solitary egg and an empty nest. This is no season for incubating eggs when you are feeling incubated yourself.

And in the middle of the garden stand a grand old cherry tree. The branches have been laden with cherries, the leaves healthy and green. Throughout this heat wave there’s no hint of withering. In fact the branches spread out wide providing shade and shelter for the potted plants we’ve placed beneath for protection.

Our water is drawn from a well two hundred feet deep below the surface and so far it has never run dry. The water is clear and cold and is essential for us to try and keep everything sustained and alive. The cherry tree of course is quite independent and has sunk roots deep into the earth where it has found it’s own water supply to give it life and strength whatever the season.

Jesus often used the natural surroundings of his audience as metaphors to highlight a greater truth in the spiritual. That realm so mystifying and unseen to us mortals. We tend to grasp and strain to hold onto the visible. Inevitably once we have ‘that thing’ we look around dissatisfied; still ‘thirsty’. We thirst for something intangible that offers meaning and sustenance and yet it’s so hard to articulate, identify, and even find. Like water in the ground.

Jesus spoke of the color of the sky, of weeds, of sowing seed, of rain falling on good and evil, of flowers, of birds, of water. He understood our battle to make sense of the spiritual so invariably in his teaching it was simple and accessible. “See this, it’s like that….” Unlike many spiritual gurus it wasn’t about complexity and special knowledge for the few, but rather, insight and revelation that anyone could take hold of and apply without getting religious. Even better, Jesus never sent people off to work out the application of his teaching with greater effort on their part. He revealed the principle he was highlighting and then invited his hearers to find and access those resources in him and his Father. “It’s your lucky day, we can help you with that.”

“If you’re thirsty, come to us to drink. If you’re weary and heavy laden, come to us and we’ll take the weight. If you’re troubled we will give you peace. If you are confused by life we can show you the way. If you are afraid of your circumstances we will help you overcome.” So many examples.

I imagine if Jesus were standing in the garden he might teach us a simple lesson and principle from the cherry tree. “Rather than living your life afraid and battling with ever-changing seasons, put your roots deep into your relationship with me. My well never runs dry, and I will sustain you with living water through every situation and season. So much so that others will draw close to you for sustenance and shade and you can pass on the source of your strength and peace. Others will know that I live in you when your leaves are green while others wilt. The fruit on your branches will be abundant while those around you hang limp and empty. They will know me by your fruit, because fruit reveals the depth of your roots.”

If you have been to Israel you’ll know that Jesus knew what he was talking about. He lived in a region of heat, water shortage, desert, temptation, and provision.

So if we are wilting somewhat from this heat dome it’s probably a losing battle pumping up the leaves. Attend to the roots; the leaves and fruit will look after themselves. How do we do that? Very simple, as is always the case with Jesus. Thank him for his love and presence, thank him that his living water is flowing into you even when you feel nothing. Thank him that he has provided everything needed to ride out this challenging season, be it heat wave or covid, or both and more. Counter-intuitively the inside always sustains the outside.

Let the river flow…..

John Cox

Christian Author and Counsellor

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