I walked through the wood on a winter day. A pleasant day. A pleasant path. Hints of green winter grass poked up amongst the brown. Some of the trees sported bare branches. Some did not. Some trees designed to keep their leaves. Some not, instead waiting for the new growth of spring.
I noticed some hints of trouble as I walked. Broken trees. Fallen trees. Amidst the many whole. Curious. How strange, I thought. I wonder why.
And I came upon a field. A field peppered with tree stumps. Some with just the branches broken off. Some with much broken off. Some entirely toppled. Some cut down. Some still standing. Some younger new growth. But mostly I saw twisted, broken, dead.
I paused and pondered. Maybe a fire. Or a windstorm. Maybe a disease in their roots. Or possibly a drought.
So I asked. Jesus, what happened here?
This, he said. Is my church.
I paused. Your church, I asked? Is this what you see, Jesus?
He let me move from pause and return to pondering.
Is this what we have wrought, I thought? I this what we are doing to our people? His people? We’ve created a field of brokenness?
In the summer, it probably looks different. Leaves covering the broken, save for the severely damaged. But now, in the winter season, the broken are all too easily seen.
Is this true of your church, Jesus?
In times of prosperity, when things are going well, we don’t see the broken people, the hurting people, save for the severely damaged. But when difficulty comes, when times are hard, the truth is all too evident.
Is this what we do with our wounded, Jesus?
Some of the damaged trees were covered in vines. Do we try to pretty up broken people with other leaves on the outside, rather than cultivating life and healing within?
Some of the damaged trees still stood tall next to healthy trees. Do our wounded try to stand tall, to put on a brave front, to look like they’re fine?
In the storms, during the difficult seasons, have we have let the weak and vulnerable become more broken?
Like new growth growing among the broken, have we kept our focus there, delighting in the new life, but forgetting about the hurting?
Have we, like one with a chainsaw, cut down the ones we thought unworthy or broken or dead and left them to rot away?
I continued walking and came to another place. A place where young live oaks grew and flourished.
There are places, Jesus said. Where my church takes care of the broken, the needy, the hurting, the outcast. Other nations where my church grows and is filled with life because it gives life.
But not here, I asked?
No, not here, he said.
Jesus, forgive us.
So, I’m going to camp here for a bit, too.
Because my heart, like the trees, is breaking for what we have wrought.