I absolutely love my Monday Night Bible Study girls. They are inspiring, honest, vulnerable and some Jesus lovin’ individuals who seek to sharpen one another in love. I’m so grateful for them. We’ve shared and witnessed struggles of marriages on the brink of divorce, transformed to revived and vibrant unions. We’ve prayed for babies and births together; suffered death together. We’ve witnessed healing and continue to pray for more. We’ve shared burdens and held each other up in prayer, even in places where we didn’t know. We make mistakes with one another, give and receive forgiveness, grow and do the messy parts of life together. And we hold that sacred space of bible study in confidentiality; you know, what’s said at bible study stays at bible study.
Our group is smack in the middle of Lisa Bevere’s study, Girls with Swords. We’ve been talking about the cross and God’s Word, and how God’s Word is a God Sword (shift the letters and take out the apostrophe). During the session last night we spoke specifically about the cross, and during the video session Lisa had us close our eyes to do a mental exercise. Here’s a little portion from the book part ::
“Close your eyes for a moment, and imagine a wooden cross. I want you to see that what was once a beautiful living tree is now fashioned into a lifeless instrument of death. Stripped of all it’s branches and bark, the dead wood is roughly hewn and splintered. The harsh pieces are artificially joined to form a wooden cross, and when it is erected, it looks strangely like a sword with its point in the ground.
Now imagine Jesus, the Word made flesh and God’s glorious Son, with his naked, beaten body stretched the length of this horrid sword blade. Nine-inch nails have anchored his hands to the cross-guard,and behind our master’s head is the wooden sword’s grip. Perhaps in heaven crosses and swords are one in the same.” (Lisa Bevere, Girls with Swords, pg. 64)
My minds eye followed along, but then all of a sudden my botanical mind took over and I saw something different. I saw the once vibrant tree stripped of bark and now dead and formed into a cross, then it came to life. This tree turned cross, turned into sword stuck in the ground, and then came back to life in the form of a strong and life-giving seedling.
I began to see this oak tree seedling; as it germinated, a long tap root was sent down deep into the earth much like the blade of the sword buried. “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.” (Matthew 27:51, ESV) The portion seen above ground grew, sending up two cotyledons, the cross-guard of a sword’s hilt. After a long pregnant pause, the rest of the tree began to grow. It exploded into rapid and vibrant growth, beautiful and lush, producing fruit and a multiplying. It was beautiful!
Rooted in unfathomable love, Jesus’ death on the cross was the beginning of new life! The tap root, botanically called the radical, was sourced in a radical and powerful love for each of God’s creations. Just like swords, roots have a hard, sharp and pointy end to break through the toughest of earth. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sward, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV) We must be rooted in love, a pure and powerful love sourced in our Creator.
I see the cross for what it is, “a beautiful living tree now fashioned into a lifeless instrument of death”; but I also see it as the seed of life eternal. A seed that has grown and sprouted into something more beautiful than I could ever imagine, producing fruit for generations.
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not receive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19, ESV, emphasis mine)
God’s love springs forth!