Bent but not broken

I am not a gardener.  I am not a plant person by any stretch of anyone’s imagination.  I have no live plants in my house and only minimal artificial ones.  This extends to outside of my house as well.  Some people care about flowers and shrubs and landscaping.  I am not one of them.  However, we have two large burning bushes in the back of our yard.  They were here when we moved in.  They don’t require anything from us except a trim every few years and that is done by my husband or father-in-law.  They don’t need anything from me, but I do quite enjoy looking at them, especially in the autumn when their leaves turn bright red.  I have a nice view of them out the window that’s over my kitchen sink.  And I probably take them a bit for granted.

One of my burning bushes all bent down and drooping after our last big snow storm.

During our last snow storm when we got a foot of heavy, wet snow within 18 hours or so, the branches of my burning bushes bent.  Instead of standing upright, the branches fell over and hung low to the ground.  They were heavy laden with snow.  They looked so very burdened.  Their branches seemed like they’d never stand upright again.  I doubted whether they’d rejuvenate and wondered how we’d have to trim them or deal with them come spring.  I thought of tramping through the snow and brushing the snow off of the branches, but with windchills at -40 following the heavy snow, I never gave that idea serious consideration.

I looked at my burning bushes and more than being concerned about what would happen to them come spring, I related to them.  I have felt so downtrodden many times.  I have felt so heavily burdened with snow.  My branches have drooped so low to the ground that I thought I’d never be upright again.  There have been times when things I’ve known to be true my entire life have suddenly and dramatically shifted.  My branches didn’t feel like they’d survive.  The snow or hurt seemed way too much to bear.

The same burning bush in the autumn when it starts to turn red. Right now it's barren of leaves, but it will bloom again like this since it was only bent and not broken.

But then the thaw happened.  This happened literally the end of last week with my burning bushes.  Temperatures started rising and the snow started melting.  I spent one day watching out the window periodically and seeing the snow fall from the branches of my burning bushes.  And what I discovered is that the branches popped right back up into position.  They were never broken.  They were only bent.  Within 24 hours, all of the branches were back to life as usual.  They looked normal.  They seem to have suffered no damage or ill will from the heavy snow they endured.  They have survived.

And I thought about how time and again when I go through difficult periods that always the thaw comes.  Always God holds me close to ensure that I’m bent and not broken beyond repair.  In fact, as I thought about it, I realized that if one of my children had been sitting in the backyard covered in snow and stuck, I would have done whatever it took to get to them, brush away the snow and revitalize them.  I love them way more than I love my burning bushes.  I would have walked through the snow barefoot in the -40 windchill in a heartbeat to save them.

That is God for us.  He sees our burdened, hurting selves.  He sees our branches bent and heavy laden.  And, if we let Him, He comes and gently brushes the snow away or, at the very least, holds us close and gives us strength until the thaw comes.  He keeps our branches from breaking.  He allows us to be bent sometimes as we’re learning and growing.  He allows us to be bent when we are affected by our choices or the choices of others thanks to the free will He has given.  But, He never makes us weather the storms alone.  He is there if we look for Him.  He is there if we seek Him.

We may be bent right now.  We may be heavy laden with burdens.  We may be hurting in ways that we think no one else could ever understand, but no matter what, I promise you that God has not forgotten you.  God has proven by sending His Son that He would do anything to save us, to draw us close.  He would tromp through the snow and help us bear our snow burden in a heartbeat.  We are bent, but we are not broken.  Hold tight to that, dear friend.

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