There is a song that is played often in New Orleans around Mardi Gras time. The main line goes like this: "There a'int no place to pee on Mardi Gras Day." This is a truth universally accepted, unless you count randomly placed and often disgusting Port-o-Lets...which are used only in the most desperate of circumstances. There are, however, many places to pray and worship on Mardi Gras day. While most everyone else was out enjoying the revelry and copious amounts of alcohol, I was walking the levee near my home, praying and worshipping as I went.
About a mile from my apartment there is a sort of meeting place, which extends up over the levee and leads to a long pier that looks out over the river. As I looked out over the water, I saw all the dead lookng trees huddled along the river's edge. The water always says something to me about the Lord, and this day was no exception. As I looked at one tree in particular, which looked like it had been there a while, I felt the Lord impress upon me that even the most firmly rooted trees, planted near life-giving water need times when they are stripped bare and seem dried up. All the tree can do is sit and wait, trusting that its roots are firmly planted where they need to be and that the water it is so close to (yet can't reach down and pull up for itself) will have the effect of renewed life and growth and covering.
I couldn't help but identify with this poor tree. But the message is one of encouragement. This season of deadness is a type of pruning and when the tree does begin to bud and bloom again, it will be bigger, its branches heavier with leaves, its roots stronger than it was before.
And that is the promise to me, to any of us, who like the tree are being pruned and called to wait patiently on the Lord to bring about the perfect work of patience and hope.
As I turned to head back home, a song came on my MP3 player which said "I surrender. To you I'm givin' in. Come take me...change me...I want to start again." Then it said..."It's not the end, this is the beginning!" While that line was playing, I saw before me the long stretch of levee ahead and my heart was filled with hope.
In surrendering, I am giving up things...but truly for me those things are merely ideas. Cherished ideas...hope-filled ideas...pleasing ideas...but ideas none-the-less. My natural response is to feel like something is ending...like I am losing something. But "it's not the end...this is the beginning."
I know this to be true...when I come to the end of myself...my plans...my hopes...I come to the starting line of God's plans for me. I come to the beginning of something more amazing than anything I can think or imagine.
"It's not the end...THIS IS THE BEGINNING!"