Tangled vines. Random curves and irregular connections intersect as they wind around each other. The maze of twists where even the spaces meld and define seems to tell a significant story borne of weighty decisions and complex directions. No straight lines, dotted I’s, or crossed T’s’. Maybe it’s your story? Maybe mine?
I love that this thought-provoking uniquely beautiful composition adorns the altar for the Lenten season at our little Anglican church. It unmistakably invites the introspection the Lenten season demands.
One of our deacons put it this way: The Lenten season invites us through the means of spiritual disciplines to examine our attachments. The intention of discipline is growth in maturity and freedom, but the experience of disciple often brings us to a place of recognizing where we are and what we are depending on for our life and our lifting. We might notice the direction we are taking. It might be time for a new twist, a turning.
A painful decision perhaps?
It reminded me of a dark time when we lived in Russia as missionaries. One particularly bleak afternoon while feeling sorry for myself I struggled with the price we paid to move to Siberia.
After all, I told God, we left home, family, friends, occupations, possessions, known language, familiar ways. I missed my grocery store. The list went on and on.
In the midst of my Eeyore –like reverie, one biblical narrative in particular came to mind as I contemplated the cost of obeying God in the weighty decisions of life. It is the story of Abraham and sacrifice of his only son, Isaac.
God called Abraham to do an impossibly hard and seemingly frightful thing: sacrifice his only son, the son of promise. And yet as the story goes he obeyed and went even to the point of no return.
Hebrews 11:17-19 says: “ By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead.“
He believed Jehovah-Jireh, the God who could provide, would provide everything he needed. Including a miracle.
That realization guided his decision and that afternoon in Russia it guided mine as it cut thru my self-absorption and struck a vital nerve in my spiritual life.
Costly? Yes. Would God provide if I trusted him? Yes.
“Peter began to say to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed You.’ Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.'” Mark 10:28-30.
The twist. The turn. The peace.
That afternoon I wrote The Executioner’s Song. My vine began that turning-point day to reflect the knarled beauty of an unmistakable, unexpected curve toward Russia.
The Executioner’s Song by Barbara LaTondresse
The lonely mountain death walk–
Mist rises with the early morning sun as the chill damp reaches my soul.
Every part of me is cold.
I’ve been here before, Lord.
I recognize the path.
It’s worn and obvious, not overgrown; winding precariously around the crags and skirting precipices; narrow, but sure–not random.
This had been planned; prepared.
Executioners always know this way.
Yet you say Your name is Jehovah-Jireh.
What will the Lord provide? A sharp knife? New rope to bind my Isaac?
Skillful, deft hands, quickly moving so Isaac is surprised and tethered before he can get away?
I avoid his eyes.
I know they will speak of betrayal, shock, fear— I, too, feel the sudden unmistakable jolt of revulsion.
Together we both know I hold the knife and we both know it will come down, so I avoid his eyes.
He lies still now, expecting the blow— hoping the knife is sharp and the aim is dead accurate.
In one wave of glorious surrender, the knife falls.
He is dead.
I am, too.
Neither of us will ever be the same.
We both sing the Executioner’s song and sense the uncanny peace.
On the mountain Jehovah-Jireh has His way;
so we carry the bloody knife and remember.
1 March 1995 ©1995 Barbara A. LaTondresse – All rights reserved.
A Lesson from the Vines. Witham, Cheryl. “Crossings.” Church of the Cross. N.p., 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.
Hebrews 11:17-19 & Mark 10:28-30. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. N.p.: Good News, 2001. N. pag. Print.
The Executioner’s Song by Barbara A. LaTondresse – 1 March 1995 ©. 1995. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
Altar at Lent taken by Janet Evans McCuistion. March 2015. Church of the Cross. Hopkins, Minnesota.