I thought I was weathering this quarantine fairly well. Not that I haven’t struggled with worries and fears but I have sought to try and fill this time with positive things. I have taken time to pray by myself and with others, I have increased the amount of studying I do, I have tested recipes, and I have focused on writing. I have counted myself blessed to have a job that offers a few hours each week so, by focusing on essentials only, I have been able to face this time without panic and despair.
Until this week. Everywhere I looked I saw images of angry, fearful, hate-filled people and every story I heard filled my ears with the same. I was also dealing with a great deal of pain. I don’t know what I did to aggravate my injuries but my pain has been intense. It was physically difficult to get out of bed and it quickly became emotionally difficult as well. I admit it. I took my eyes off Jesus and saw only the terrible things being done everywhere in the entire earth.
The moment I did so, I was overwhelmed. I saw how powerless I was to stop terrible things being done to people I know and love. How much more powerless am I to help people I’ve never met? I can’t even help myself. I panicked and then I despaired.
I did what I knew how to do to fight. I prayed, I read studies that uplifted and encouraged me, I tried to encourage others the best way I knew how even though I didn’t feel it myself, and I listened to teachings so my ears heard positive words rather than negative words.
My spiritual breakthrough came today. I listened to Malcolm Smith’s webinar number 168 entitled “What Do You See?”. Mr. Smith’s message is taken from the book of Jeremiah Chapter One verses 11 and 12. The word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah and asks him, “what do you see?” Jeremiah replies, “I see a branch or shoot of an almond tree.” (Quoted from the Amplified Bible) Mr. Smith then goes on to describe why this particular vision is important.
I do not seek to copy his teaching nor am I remotely qualified to attempt to teach on this passage myself. I will add a link to the teaching at the end of this post in case anyone is interested. I do seek to put into words why this teaching was of such particular joy to me.
The almond tree blossoms in late winter/early spring. It is the first plant to do so and, as such, is the promise of the life to come in spring. It is the tiny bit of life seen while everything else still lies in the grasp of winter. I do not think I push the analogy to say it is the bit of resistance in the plant world to the death that comes in winter. It is tiny but it is real.
This struck me. I cannot deny terrible things are happening nor do I wish to turn a blind eye to another’s pain. I cannot feel compassion unless I know pain myself and recognize it in another and I do not seek my own peace at the cost of ignoring another’s suffering. I want to be able to fight against evil with actions of love but it is difficult to prevent all of these terrible things from piling up, one on top of another, until they are innumerable voices screaming in my ears nothing but hopelessness and death. I can do so little. There are days when I am in so much pain I can do nothing at all. These are the days of despair when I believe I am alone-and alone who can do any work for good?-and I forget there are almond branch stories.
There are stories of great sacrifice; people that have laid down their lives in order to take care of a fellow human being and people that risk doing so because the love in them won’t allow them to act otherwise. There are stories of giving; people who give all they have and then more because the love in them cannot rest while a fellow being goes hungry. There are the most precious stories of all where people do return the evil done to them with love. There are big stories and there are small stories like the story a friend shared of a little girl in her neighborhood leaving a May basket on her door step.
These are stories of love that knows no barriers and no limitations. These are stories of brave souls who hurl that love into the maelstrom of chaos raging around us believing in the hope that love is the far greater power.
It is such a fragile thing, hope. Perhaps it is much like the almond blossoms who dare to flower in the midst of cold and frost. These blossoms speak with a still small voice but that voice declares a promise of spring: abundant life to come. I read these stories aloud to myself and listen to others tell them so that my ears hear words of hope and promise. These words help me to find the strength I need to do something.
Because there is more to the picture of the almond branch. In its expansion of Jeremiah 1:11 the Amplified Bible states the almond branch is the emblem of alertness and activity. Alertness and Activity, Kate; not panic and despair. I see an almond branch and it tells me I am not absolved of responsibility because I’m tired and in pain. Perhaps I cannot do anything big but I can do something that tells an almond branch story of my own even if only one other person hears it. I can do so knowing I am not alone. In this time, it might be one almond branch flowering here and another there while the world lies under the weight of winter but each one is a promise that spring is coming.
Malcolm Smith’s Teaching: it’s just under an hour.