Last Sunday, after my duties with the orchestra were completed, a fellow musician and I awkwardly made our way to the only seats available, the very front row. Then I sat in that front row and listened to a powerful message called “Between the Trees.” You should really go watch or listen to the whole thing, but for the purpose of this blog post, here is the bottom line:
The garden of Eden was full of light and joy and meaningful work. After Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God cast them out of the garden. He assigned angels to guard the Tree of Life, to protect Adam and Eve from eating of its fruit and living forever in a broken world. (Yes. Wow.)
At the other end of the story, the Tree of Life is described as a central feature in the heavenly city, bearing fruit in abundance, growing on both sides of a great river of life. This city will be full of light, and joy, and meaningful work, and the Tree of Life will produce fruit enough for all of us to have plenty. (Yeah. Wow, again. I swear, when this pastor speaks, it’s like I’ve never heard these stories before.)
But right now, we live between the trees. This part of the story, between the trees, has brokenness. Violence. Hate. Selfishness. Insecurity. Illness. So many things are void of light and joy and meaning. But…there are miracles. Supernatural miracles and everyday miracles. Things that fill us with light, and joy, and meaning, in the midst of brokenness. Perhaps, Pastor Mark proposes, God is giving us little portions of true reality, of how things are supposed to be, of how things are outside of the brokenness between the trees.
And fitting for celebrating Thanksgiving, I see so much good between the trees!
On Monday, a student brought something she had made over the weekend. A ribbon will a flag for each member of the class, including myself and the teaching practicum student that is with us for a couple of months. This girl worked so hard on these flags. The classroom is a busy, stressful, demanding place lately, and love shines through anyway.
A conversation with my two-year-old niece at 5:30 in the morning one day recently: “Have lunch, please?” Yes, we can have breakfast. Are you hungry? “Yes, right here (pointing), my tummy? My tummy feels hungry.” What should we have? Grapes? “Yes, grapes.” How about some toast? “Oh, yes, toast, toast!!! Yes, please! Toast, please! It’s so yummy and good!” Okay, let’s go make some toast! “Yes, please! Make toast! And butter? Please? Put butter on? So yummy and good!!!”
On Sunday, I was grading trimester reading tests and having some really, really big feelings. About data. It turned out to be numbers I can live with, but still, disappointing, and a bit of an emotional ride. I took a break to surf Facebook for a moment, and I found this video of Alondra de la Parra conducting a symphony rehearsal. Such visible passion! I love an animated, passionate conductor. Then later that afternoon I went to an orchestra rehearsal of my own and had some soul-healing moments in real life. I am so grateful that a little musical passion often seems to solve all my problems. I’m so grateful that I’m wired with a soul-deep love for music. I know it’s a gift not offered to everyone, and I can only hope that everyone can recognize a soul-deep love for something in themselves.
Several moments lately have reawakened my love for reading. Conversations with friends, a good book that has consumed me, and a movie. I recently watched the move Liberal Arts, and the characters just made me love myself a little more, strange as that may sound. Anna is only in the movie for a small portion of the story, but she made the biggest impact on me. She seems unwilling to compromise who she is and what she loves for what people expect her to be. She says she is trying to read less and go be social more, but not because of what the world expects, but because of the value she sees for herself. Jesse, the main character, tells a college kid, “I have a soft spot for good readers. They are hard to find these days.” The movie is full of discussion of serious literature, trendy vampire novels, and classical music. Watching it was like reading a good book – I wanted to highlight quotes I liked! I’m so grateful for the off-beat, smart movies like Liberal Arts and lots of others that I love. I’m so grateful for fiction (in the form of movies, TV shows, books) that make me feel inspired to do what I do and feel free to love what I love. I’m so grateful for the propensity to be absorbed by a good book.
A few days ago I made chicken noodle soup. Like, from ingredients. Potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, chicken stock, herbs. Bay leaves, for crying out loud! I used a cutting board and a soup pot. I scrubbed, peeled, and chopped. The smells of simmering soup filled my house. In my life, which is just as busy as I like it, cooking from ingredients is a rare treat. And it always refreshes my love for my home!
There are the usual gratitudes of family, friends, health, home, etc. And I love all of those things more than I can adequately describe. But this life between the trees is full of small moments of passion, of light, joy, and meaning, of secret little moments that go unspoken. I’m so grateful for them.