I've been taking a lot of walks since last summer when I began this weight loss journey. It was on one of my first walks that I stumbled upon a beautiful plumeria tree at the far end of my neighborhood.
Passing that tree fast became one of my favorite parts of walking, even running when I tried. Not only was it beautiful to look at, but the fragrance was wonderful, often wafting toward me well before I came upon it on the nights with the soft summer breezes.
When I would try to run, the tree would be a marker for me, the place I always changed, slowed, my pace so I could breathe in the beauty.
Summer passed and fall came and the blossoms began to fall, fewer and fewer remained on the stems. Still the few blossoms that remained offered their sweet scent, and I always stopped to breathe it in. It was my favorite part of my walks.
As the winter approached my walks were no longer happening as frequently and several weeks went by when I had not visited my friend the tree. Then one cold, damp evening I say out toward the other end of my neighborhood. With anticipation I sniffed the air as I approached my favorite spot, but I smelled nothing in the air.
It was late in the evening and very dark, so I had to come right up upon the tree to see it. My heart sank when I did. Not only had every bloom fallen, but someone had come along and cut the tree back to a cluster of ugly bare stems. Though it was still planted firmly in the ground, it showed no signs of life and looked completely dead to me.
My heart ached.
"That's me," I thought. "I'm just like that tree."
I remember a summertime of life when I felt like I was doing things that mattered. There was a time of beauty, purpose, in ministry and in my talents and gifts. But slowly all the things that blossomed and bloomed fell away. Some were plucked, others just died and fell away, blossoms that were crushed underfoot. And any fragrance or beauty slowly disappeared to nothing.
I see myself the way I see the tree: barren, alive but showing no signs of life, no fruit, no beauty. And it feels hopeless. My heart grieves for the plant, and it grieves for the hopes I used to hold, and the dreams I once dared to dream.
At times I'm tempted to assign blame for my disappointment, in what feels like a miscarried dream-- one that died before it ever really came to life. But in my heart of hearts, I know the One who holds the power, and no matter how the cutting occurred, One has the authority to say yea or nay to its occurrence. Like the gardener who cut back the plumeria tree, I am kept by only One. He alone cut away the blossoms that once bloomed. He alone knows why, but whatever His reasons are, they are right. But that knowledge makes it no less painful.
We are several weeks into spring now, and my plumeria tree still isn't showing any sign of fruit. I've been hoping to come upon it and smell again the sweet fragrance of its blossoms. Each night my disappointment weighs heavier. There is nothing but the memory of those summer blooms, no sign they were ever there. If someone were to come upon this tree, they would never know it has once been beautiful and fruitful.
As I think about that, I see myself in the tree again. That plant was meant for another place, a different climate, tropical not the California desert. It makes me wonder how it ever bloomed, and causes my heart to fear that it may never bloom again. Maybe it looks dead because it's death it's moving toward.
Maybe the seasons of purpose-- fruitful, beautiful times-- are only past for me too. Tonight as I was walking, I asked God "Is this all there is?" I want to be content even if that's so, but I'm not. I still long to waft a sweet fragrance on a summer breeze, one that tells of fruit in my life. No one else who remembers the blossoms is even here to tell about them anymore. Honestly it makes me wonder if my own memories are real or imagined.
Spring is here-- a new season that brings warmth and hope, but the plumeria tree still stands in its own personal winter. Is it dying? I don't know.
Am I? I wonder that, but then I think to myself if I were perhaps then it wouldn't hurt so much. Perhaps then at least numbness might come, or memories of fruitful days might fade. How I long to forget. I would rather have never known than to have to keep on with the fear that none of it will ever be again, living instead with the confident fear that this is indeed all there is, all that's left.