Tender twigs

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.”  Mark 13:28

Seventeen years ago, our son Patrick went off to The Citadel, the military college in Charleston, SC. Freshmen start with Hell Week. Like basic training, it’s tough; they cut off your hair and yell at you. But Patrick quit before the week was over and came home.

Jana and I were crushed.

But then Patrick learned there are worse things than being a freshman at The Citadel. Like feeling sorry for yourself. Like not having a reason to get up in the morning.  The next summer Patrick decided to try again. But this time, the upperclassman would know that he’d quit. Things would be even harder.

When the day came to go back to The Citadel, Patrick was so scared that he was sick. As we drove along, we passed a Huddle House restaurant in a small town. It had a sign which read, “Be still and know that I am God.” None of us said anything, but Patrick had seen it. He later told us that right then, he was at peace. During Hell Week and beyond, when he was scared or lonely, he remembered that verse, and he made it through.

Hope came for our son when he was most vulnerable.

That’s Jesus’ point in Mark 13:28. In the spring when the twigs of a tree are tender, that’s when leaves emerge. But that’s also when the tree is most vulnerable to a killing freeze.

We spend our lives trying to show that we’re successful, confident, and in-charge. The problem with that is, who can tell you that you need a savior? Jesus says that hope comes to us, not when we’re pulled together, but when we’re vulnerable.

And so, hope comes to us at Christmas through a tiny baby, the most vulnerable thing in God’s creation

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