I grew up in southwestern Oklahoma in a small community 50 miles southwest of Lawton, OK, about 15 miles from the Texas border. The soil produced the type of crops, my maternal great grandparents grew in Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio so they migrated by covered wagon to Oklahoma around the beginning of the 20th Century, six years before Oklahoma became the 46th State in the United States. Other members of the families traversed from north and east, so that both my mother’s Dad and Mom’s parents, some of their brothers, sisters, cousins came to claim homesteads in Oklahoma Territory.
The land was fertile, but the climate was arid, not much like where they had lived. Nevertheless, they survived, built homes, grew crops and families and established churches. My great grandparents and grandparents are all buried there. I entered the world and lived the first 18 years of my life in a world where I swear the sky resembled a large snow globe, though we had little snow. To the north on a clear day the Wichita Mountains some 30 miles away were visible. Flat does not even describe it, because it did not seem flat, it seemed encased by the sky.
During the growing season, wheat, cotton, corn spread out across the fields that surrounded the town. Uncultivated land tended to produce scrub brush and tumble weeds stacked up along fence lines. Dust storms could turn the sky dark red and the wind…the wind always blew. Drive along the roads in Oklahoma even today and you will see the bend of trees shaped and bowed by the constant, primarily southern winds. There are a few native stands of trees along the creeks, near ponds, and the rivers. Trees around houses are transplants, carefully cultivated.
When I read Jeremiah 17:5-10, my mind sees first the scrub brush and tumble weeds, short or non-existent roots, growing in hostile conditions. So it is with those who depend on and trust people and human wisdom. Look at the evidence, pagan religion, unfulfilled religion, occult religion, new age, atheism, humanism–man’s attempts to define and confine the world according to man. What a desolate environment, no hope beyond fatalism, no ability to see the creator’s hand in creation, or to see many gods who are frivolous and capricious at best, scary and vindictive at worst. To believe that man or at least the elite among the species can eventually create the peaceable kingdom denying God and God’s power. Humanism dehumanizes the human being. The landscape outside the belief in the One True God is arid, dead, and hopeless.
But lest I judge too quickly, let me share a Pastor’s wife story about trusting people and ignoring God’s will and intentions for my life.
Ministry comes with its challenges and someone like me who prefers to love and be loved probably is ill equipped for some of those challenges. The nature of those challenges are PEOPLE, Christian people, good people. We served a church for 13 years and we grew to love the community and the church. I learned a lot from those in the congregation and experienced healing in many areas of my life. I began, first mistake, to think of myself as a member of the family, as someone who would always be able to count on them, that they loved us that way. And then, second mistake, I began to look to them as my source of worthiness.
Terry and I both failed to read the writing on the wall. We were never family. We were the preacher and his wife. They cared about us for a long time, but they also grew disenchanted with our ministry and wanted a change. We exited when we were asked to leave. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out!
I was devastated. My family had rejected me. God was teaching me that I had put my trust in people. I was blind to His call on my life to move in a different direction, to expand from the arid soil and dry winds to a new walk with Him and a new partnership with my husband.
To be alive and growing we must be connected to God, trusting him, reading his word and moving the direction he calls us to explore. Jesus spoke of being connected to the vine (John 15:1-15). The psalmist and Jeremiah speak of being like trees planted in fertile, nutritious soil near the river.
And so looking back to my hometown in Oklahoma, I remember the trees around the creeks, ponds, rivers and lakes…..arid land all around them, but still they stood, season after season. Yes, they bent with the winds, but they stood. So should we.
We live in the world where more and more our beliefs are maligned or made fun of, a wilderness with people who cannot see the rainbow as a miracle or consider a loving God who would die for them or even that they would need that. More and more we must not allow ourselves to lean on human understandings, but to stay connected to the vine and near the water of life!