12 Yes, you will go out with celebration,
and you will be brought back in peace.
Even the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you;
all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
13 In place of the thorn the cypress will grow;
in place of the nettle the myrtle will grow.
This will attest to the Lord’s stature,
an enduring reminder that won’t be removed.
I am a tree-hugger. I have literally hugged a tree to be in community with nature. Being in nature, I find celebration through the cacophony of sights and sounds that share the wonders of God’s creation. In fact, when I walk and sit in nature, I am forced to know and remember “the awe” of the Almighty. For me, being amongst the trees is a sacred space.
So when I came around the corner the other day, shock and sadness hit me full on–as a whole section of woods adjacent to my neighborhood had been cleared out! For all the trees, the animals and God’s world, I just cried out, “No!” It felt so wounding and disheartening. The missing pine trees felt like just another tragedy to add to the list for 2020. I do not wish to trivialize the sickness of people, but at a time when we all wish we could be celebrating, those missing trees reminded me of my grief.
Yet when I step back and read Isaiah, I am reminded that maybe a momentary shift in my perspective can help me to find joy. Through Isaiah, I learn that “even the mountains and the hills will burst into song.” God intended for the whole of creation to celebrate. God meant for life to be lived fully, even when there is tragedy. This is not to say that grief isn’t integral to our existence or important work– only that God means for all God’s creatures to celebrate, however and whenever they can.
And sometimes celebrating in the face of grief gives remembrance further meaning. So as I walked near the tree-line the other day, the trees that remained challenged my perspective. My response? I hugged a remaining tree. The experience reminded me to return to a life touched by joy. I gave into an urge to sing. I was reminded that even “all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Clap your hands, tree, I thought, now you have the field. So I walked home, remembering the pine trees and singing carols all the way.
By Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
Sometimes tragedy or challenge forces us to grieve and change our perspective. God means for us to find joy and celebration through all of life’s creation. Within the last month, how or where have you found joy in unexpected ways? How have you shared the joy of God’s love with others?
Prayer: Almighty God, we pause to hear your words throughout the wonders of nature and all of creation. We want so much to celebrate and find joy, but many times, we find change and our challenges overwhelming. When our grief and loss feels great, we want to know you. Lord, help us know you. Please help us to sense your unending presence. Help us to go on sharing your tender love in the world. Amen.