Call me Jim, for want of any other name.
My world came crashing down about a year ago when the cicadas swarmed, with their beady little eyes and gnashing teeth, making a noise that was so horribly loud I thought it would never stop. But it did, and they disappeared, leaving destruction in their wake. I could see it on the oak tree across the street all summer long, a constant reminder of my own condition: dead, cancerous brown tufts where there was supposed to be verdant new life.
I tried to live a normal summer, but the after-effects of my treatment was devastating. My limbs are still scarred from the abuse I suffered, and I ached in the core of my being. Some days it sapped all my energy just to keep breathing.
By autumn, I began to shut down. I took no pleasure in the foliage across the street because I just couldn’t bring myself to feel joy. One by one, I began to drop those things that gave me my own color.
I slept through most of the winter, and through the long Spring that Refused to Come. I just couldn’t seem to get going again. As we were pounded by one snowfall after another, each bringing the cold back with it like an unwanted relative, I became certain I would never be warm again. It was almost too much to bear. I wanted God to take me. I even begged Him. I stood outside one morning with my bare, frail arms stretching upward and I made a fist as best I could in the buffeting wind and screamed,“ENOUGH!”
But He didn’t take me.
Instead, He gave me another spring. Today I look around at all the color across the street, and I’m amazed. The oak is green again, having sloughed off those dead branches. The cherry tree on the corner is alive with pink blossoms. Front lawns are decorated with yellow daffodils, purple hyacinths, and tulips of all colors. Bees are darting about the fragrant blooms, transporting life from one end of their world to another.
Cynically, I say to myself, it’s only temporary. The colorful blossoms will fall away, and all around will be ordinary green. It will be as if spring never happened.
Or will it? I consider the oak across the way. I remember only a few years ago when it was a frail sapling, struggling to survive. Yet each year after the spring, it is a little bit taller, stronger, and heartier. What a nice word, hearty. I let it linger on my tongue, tasting it gently, longingly.
Finally, each day is warmer than the last. I stand still in the front yard, staring up at the sun as His life-giving sap runs through my veins. I can tell that I, too, have been touched; my own color is returning. It was a long, arduous year, but I made it. And like the oak, I know I will never be the same as I was. God may, indeed, still take me before I’m ready to go, but right now I’m alive, and He is with me, so I will lift my face to the heavens and sing praises for the days I have.
I peer into the window where I can see my friend Bill resting in his chair after another round of chemo. I beckon wildly but he does not notice. I wish, as I have so often since the cicadas came, that I could speak to him, but I don’t know how.
If I could though, do you know what I would say?
I’d say, “Bill, take heart and look to the heavens. If He would bring me through all this…me, an ordinary dogwood tree, what do you suppose He’s doing in you?”