A Lone Barberry Branch

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The Land Bears Signs Of Future Joy

by Eric Elkin

In those days and at that time, I will raise up a righteous branch from David’s line, who will do what is just and right in the land.
— Jeremiah 33:15

It never ceases to amaze me how the land reflects the reality of life. At least in the Northern Hemisphere, the transitions through life’s seasons are more visible. The color and warmth of summer growth give way to the colder winds of October. Leaves and dead branches fall to the ground, and the grass turns brown. By November, life seems very dull and lifeless, and the earth turns hard and punishing. 

When snow does not cover the ground, we’re left dwelling in a world continually reminding us of death. This might sound dark, but it is true. No one writes beautiful poems about snowless November landscapes in the North. We long for snow to put a bright cover over the dullness which makes our souls feel so bleak.

The pattern of the seasons happens over and over again. Those who cannot endure move to Florida. They flee in hopes of discovering a break from the bleakness of winter. However, I’m sure southern regions have their own tribulations to endure. The only difference is the warmer temperatures.

When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us?
— Ann Voskamp

Looking out my window this morning the words of the U2 song, October, came to mind.October and the leaves are strip bare of all they wear, what do I care? October and kingdoms rise, and kingdoms fall, and you go on, and you go on.” Not exactly a dance tune, nor words that soothe the weary soul. Yet, it captures the feeling of the season.

Another Black Friday has come ushering in a season of shopping. We barely get the leftover Thanksgiving food stored in the refrigerator before we go out to fight people for a deal. Another presidency grinds on with a leader catering to his supporters and isolating his critics. Each expression of hope found in technology also seems to introduce new forms of abuse. The world of plenty somehow feels empty.

This summer, as I mowed the lawn, I discovered a lone barberry branch springing up from the ground. We did not put it there, nor has it been visible over the past five years living in this house. When I first saw it, the branch was only an inch high. I mowed over it, but every time I came back, there it was standing strong.

I started to avoid cutting it, and by the end of the summer, it was a good six inches high. The color of the leaves are red, and it does not lose its color in winter. I walk by it every so often to remind myself, a day is coming when the darkness of the day will turn bright. And, the seed that is planted to bring life was not planted by me. 

This lone sign of life warms my soul. It keeps me grounded in a joy to come. A time is surely coming, when a branch will rise up and give life to the weary. When righteousness and justice will kiss, and life will be well. And it dwell within us all.


Click to read Jeremiah 33: 14-16

Reflection Questions:

  • How does the time between fall and winter influence your soul? 

  • What do you see happening during the seasons?

  • Where do you find signs of new life in dull season?

  • How often do you go looking for these signs?

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