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Dead Tree Blooming

Almost every day I pass a certain field. It's pretty wide open in the center, with some sort of oak trees and some kind of palm trees scattered here and there, which is an odd combination if you ask me.

In the center of the field stand two oak trees, and in the 17 years I've passed them, they haven't changed.

The tree on the right has always been dead-looking, probably hit by lightning. It has remained a skeleton for as long as I can remember, with its branches stripped bare. No leaves, no life, not even any Spanish moss hanging from it.

It's always been an eerie sight, especially when black birds line themselves on the stark white tree limbs and shriek, reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. It ranks an ick factor of about 5, with a pit of snakes at 10.

It reminds me of how death mocks life, how it haunts our thoughts and tinges even our best of times, a constant reminder that we don't leave this world alive.

In contrast to this dead-looking tree, the oak tree on the left is lush and green. Its leaves never seem to fall, never fade or turn color. They are ever and always green.

For years I've passed this field with these two trees standing near each other, one alive and one dead-looking. For the longest time I thought the dead-looking tree was truly dead. Although it hasn't fallen over, there's been no activity or growth. No tiny buds in spring or tender shoots.

I've been waiting for it to do something or for something to happen to it—fall over or crumble or do whatever it is that dead trees do. But for years it's just stayed put, doing nothing—until recently.

I'm not sure when I first noticed, but the dead-looking tree no longer looks dead. It's covered and surrounded by green leaves, as green or even greener than those of the tree on the left. I'm sure this didn't happen overnight, although that's not impossible.

It's funny how I've seen that tree nearly every day but didn't notice that it had changed, didn't notice it changing. I'd assumed that once dead, always dead.

Who would think otherwise? Life doesn't spring from death, except that it does. Jesus said that unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds (John 12:23-25).

He was talking about his own death and how it would produce life for the many who would believe. But I also think it illustrates more than that. For example, relationships and situations that appear dead, dead, dead for years and years and years. No change, no life, no hope.

Then just when you think there's nothing left and you might as well bulldoze everything, God intervenes. He's the only one who can bring life to someone or something that's been long dead, or dead-looking.

It's a good possibility that some type of bush or another smaller tree is growing so close to the tree in the field that it just looks like it's alive. I'm not about to hop the fence to investigate. Even so, life is happening and life continues to happen, in spite of death.

It could be that the tree wasn't ever fully dead, that it just lay dormant for the past 15 or so years. Or maybe it really was fully dead and God gave it a good resurrection. He can do that if he wants to.

The point is, God seems to enjoy bringing life where it looks like life can't be, usually when all looks most lifeless and hopeless, almost always when we least expect it. A lifeless tree suddenly growing leaves, a loveless marriage restored and renewed. It's a wayward child returning home, a drunk celebrating one more year of sobriety.

One of my friends has been married to an alcoholic for more than 20 years. Many have told her to leave him, that her marriage is long dead, and that she should find happiness while she's still young enough.

But she says as long as her husband has breath, she's not giving up hope that God can restore and resurrect. As a Christian, she says, "Who else will pray for him?"

Her life isn't easy and she's often burdened and weary, but she believes that God delights in creating life from death.

Meanwhile, she waits for buds to bloom.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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