Instead of briers a myrtle will grow…my feeble attempts at understanding biblical gardening

I was talking to a friend briefly the other day about some of the biggest struggles I am facing lately. The thing about Alzheimer’s (or rather one of the things about it, or any other terminal disease, I could imagine) is that it takes a person away slowly. It isn’t methodical, but it is persistent in its progression to conquer a person’s brain, bit by little bit. I don’t know about you, but I am not sure how to deal with that, I mean like really deal with it. I know I should be mourning in a sense. I know that each piece of my dad that is lost (or that will be lost) is something to grieve, as it passes. Because the ugly truth is that by the time my dad dies and the “real” mourning starts my dad will have in many ways been long gone.

So I feel as if I must grieve now, in pieces, just as the pieces of him kind of flicker and dim and go out in front of me. When we first found out a remember feeling jipped. Pieces were lost that we didn’t even know about. I didn’t have time to process and grieve them as they went. I felt like someone stole something from me without permission. (I am sure there is a better way to say that. Do people usually ask permission to steal from you? Anyway…) Well now, less than a year later, I still feel like pieces are being taken from me. This time though I know the thief is coming, and I am helpless to stop it. I clench my fists around the pieces but they evaporate out of my fingers, like a mist. I guess life really is like a vapor.

So I grieve. I fumble at it, because I really don’t know how to do it right. I am also pretty sure there isn’t a “right” way, like some sort of formula for how to grieve. I also fumble at it because while I feel so appropriate grieving, I feel just as inappropriate. My dad is still here. Actually, he is 2 minutes up the road. He plays with my kids every Tuesday night while Peter and I go to Community Group. Their laughs and squeals echo in the air, lingering, hours after he has gone home for the night. Sometimes I sit in the quiet, when the air feels dense, and I can sort of hear them yelling and playing together. I can almost hear the kids saying “Oooh Pooooopppp.” Even Royce says it to him, because even Royce knows Pop is full of silly. So I feel wrong in grieving. I don’t want to waste time with it. I want to spend our time, budgeting it carefully for enjoying the life and time we have.

I am always torn back and forth between grieving what has been lost and enjoying what is still here. That is a hard balance, which somehow I will have to live with now. I am not saying that to sound like a martyr. I am just saying it. Because it is.

So I am trying to find a balance. Between the two. And this search for a balance leaves me exhausted and raw. It makes me want to turn inward, when I desperately don’t want- to coil up like a self-protecting potato bug, in my grief balance. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life thinking only about my suffering (or my family’s), my thoughts and feelings, my life. The temptation is there to build a cocoon around myself and my my family and to fold inward on each other, shutting everyone else out. Maybe that temptation exists because I often feel like this new life we have because of Alzheimer’s is magnetic. I can’t help but look at it, be drawn to it. The temptation to shut others out comes because turning away from the magnet seems like a daunting task. But I fight that temptation. Sometimes extremely unsuccessfully. The sin magnet in my heart can also be quite strong.

I have been thinking about these things for months now, trying to sort it all out. I guess I hoped it would get easier, even though I knew it wouldn’t (won’t). And even writing that sounds ridiculous.

But then I was reading in Isaiah the other day.

Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn bush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”
Isaiah 55:1-3a, 8-13

These verses are lovely. I have been coming back to them for weeks now. They are so life-giving. I would read them over, pray them out loud. But when I got to the end I would kind of gloss over verse 13, because it didn’t really speak to me. Then for some reason, last week, verse 13 seemed to “jump off the page” as people say.

Instead of the thorn bush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever
I began to picture each plant mentioned in the first part of the verse. I even jotted down words to describe each one. Thorn bush-prickly, unapproachable, painful. Juniper- evergreen. I am such an agriculturalist that I had to look up Brier and Myrtle online to see what they even are. But here is where I felt the scripture came alive, I had an “aha” moment and (insert other cliché here).  It turns out Briers are thorned plants that grow together to form thickets. They become twisted together on themselves and mangled. Myrtles on the other hand  are a flowering plant that is an evergreen. It has a central vein which nourishes the flowers. Myrtles also produce an essential oil that people have used as an antiseptic and tonic. In Jewish liturgy is a sacred plant used to symbolize good deeds apart from the Torah (or the law).
Hello symbolism! My English teachers from High School would have been all over this stuff…ya know if it wasn’t from the Bible. I honestly almost started crying at the beautiful meaning here, the verse I had all but skipped over, now became my favorite one in the passage as it related to my struggles against grief turning me inward, mangling together my heart and emotions and good intentions and desires into a thicket of briers. I can’t make sense of the thicket myself. I can't untangle myself from it, no matter how hard I try. But then I don’t have to, do I?
Instead of the briers a myrtle will grow…a flowering plant, fragrant, beautiful, evergreen, nourished from a central vein. From the “fruit” comes an oil that cures and cleanses others, not by keeping the law (which I am helpless to keep) but rather apart from the law…by grace.
Oh God, untangle this thicket within my heart. I don’t want to close others off in my grief like a thorn bush. I don’t want to ensnare others (or myself) by closing off. I want to be life-giving. I often feel like I don’t have much life to give though, God. Nourish me by the central vein of your truth and love. Allow me to bear fruit-fragrant and beautiful, but also practical and a blessing to others in their areas of need. Make the myrtle grow where the briers once were (and still are). I am helpless Jesus. I have tried so many times to do good, for the wrong reasons. I didn’t realize this was tangling me even more in the briers. The law only shows me where my weaknesses are. I can not attain it. May I grow like a myrtle watered by your grace. May my life burst forth from your life, and may it always, ever, only be for your glory, God, for your renown. You are the redeemer, God. Redeem this grief. Redeem this suffering, please God. Make it into something beautiful and enduring. Make it into something that proclaims the joy that can be found through suffering, the non-sensical joy and peace that comes from you. May I love you and love others, because you loved me first, and because your spirit courses through me enabling me to do the good works you prepared in advance for me to do. Redeem me God. Redeem me in this. Turn this thicket, these thorn bushes, these briars, into your beautiful garden God, for your pleasure and fame.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment on my blog! I love to read them! Thanks for making my day!

Follow @ Instagram

Back to Top