“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4).”
On a bright, sun-drenched spring morning, the picture comes. A lovely, green and vibrant place, yard sprawling in a vast expanse. An old, white chicken coop. A barn with a rusty metal roof…
I blink in recognition. It’s the place where I live. It’s The Three.
I’m walking along our country road. Birds trill overhead. Papa’s world right here is teeming with life. And that picture…
The garden with its freshly-turned earth and mulch blanket. The flowerbed that awaits my hope seedlings. The BOS (Bright Orange Swing) where I sit with The Friend. It’s an idyllic picture, and I can see it as clearly as though I were standing, feet planted beneath the spreading maple.
But wait. All at once something dark and horrible shatters the beauty and peace of the portrait. From nowhere, a large, menacing tank has entered my peaceful haven. The sound of its growling strikes terror in my heart.
I stand, helpless in the face of this threat that has crossed my border. Frantic, I shout for my family, call out for friends. With all my might, I hurl rocks, looking wildly for anything–anything!–that might stop or even slow its advance.
But it lumbers on. Further and further and ever further into the heart of The Three.
I scream in dismay. Roar in anger, for behind that great and terrible machine, a trail of destruction. Its massive tracks keep turning, turning, destroying everything in its path. The garden that we’d cultivated so carefully. The flowers that brought me such joy. All destroyed, broken and torn beyond repair.
I cry out to God. “Save me! Save *my* place!” But Heaven, it seems, has fallen silent, and the sky above’s made of brass.
My God, my God. Why hast Thou forsaken me?
Closer and closer and ever closer the tank rolls on. Despair fills my heart. There is no hope for me.
I am utterly spent. I have used my last resource. Exhausted, defeated, I fall to my knees, pain rushing in torrents down my cheeks. I cannot fight this intruder. I. Am. Finished.
My face is pressed into the grass. My tears, they water the soil.
It is in that place that it happens. Eyes shut tight, the sound of the engine ceases. The great machine has stopped in its tracks. Right in the heart of The Three. Whaaatt?
I lift my head. Something is happening! The lid on the tank is opening, and a rough-looking soldier’s emerging. I am dumbstruck. In his hands, he carries jewels, treasures far beyond imagining. The sun’s rays light upon the gems, and suddenly the air is suffused with a thousand, thousand rainbows that tangle and sway and dance.
He reaches down, brings up gold. Silver. Pearls. Costly gifts. I am speechless. I can scarce comprehend.
All at once, above that olive-green death machine, a Man appears. He hovers above the messenger. It’s the Commander. Brilliant light, so bright that I have to shield my eyes, but in that glance, His smile rests on the messenger.
And on me.
When all of the gifts have been discharged, the tank lumbers into a slow turn, and it leaves. I watch it disappear into the distance. When my eyes fall onto what was left of The Three, a miracle. All of the destruction is gone. Every sign of devastation, vanished. Instead, a veritable garden has sprung up, and before my eyes, a highway, bordered by trees. And the oaks are called by this name: righteousness.
Something, I see, is missing. The old plants of pride, self-reliance, self-sufficiency and fear were crushed, obliterated by that invader. And now, in their stead, a bit of Eden.
Once more, I drop to my knees, lift my face to the Commander. “Thank You, thank You,” I say, “for not letting me miss out on this. On such joy.” His smile is my own benediction.
“The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow. And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there.
“But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” — Isaiah 35:7-10