This is a guest post from Monica Barsoum - a good friend of mine who works as an attorney in Arlington, VA. Monica considers herself a proud member of two churches - St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Fairfax, VA and also St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Cleveland, OH where she grew up. You can follow her on twitter, @miniBarsoum. If you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
Sighh, on the brink of another new year... Naturally, this means I will overanalyze every part of last year and obsessively dwell on unrealized goals, disappointments, or failures. It feels like God has said “no” to me so many times last year; and not just in the “no, but I’m going to let you down easy” kind of way, but in what feels like the most devastating “no” and lead-up to “no” in the whole world.
But during this year’s annual obsession-fest, God taught me a really cool lesson – I am meant to be an almond tree. (How obvious!)
The almond tree is a giant tree which grows to be 15 to 20 feet in height. It is not afraid of the cold and begins to bloom in January, bringing forth beautiful pinkish, white flowers. During the cold season, the tree provides much needed nectar to the wild bees. The hard almond actually forms inside a soft, fleshy exterior. Although the exterior appears to be beautiful, it is unripe, and not preferred; instead, we prefer to eat the strong interior that contains the seed.
Every year I think about Christ’s promise:
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7)
Seems simple enough, so why doesn’t it play out so simply? God knows my desires, and in fact gave me these desires, but still sometimes says “no.” Maybe I’ve been having a tough time understanding this promise because I’ve been missing the next promise:
“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8).
The world teaches us to be goal-oriented every year, but God is process-oriented. His focus is on how He can give me an unimaginable amount of fruit because He believes in my potential and calls me to be His disciple. He believes that I can become like an almond tree; He believes that I can become a giant; He believes that my interior spirit can be strong and blossom; He believes that He can use me to supply His sustenance to the wild bees of this world who are hungry and in need.
But I get disappointed and shaken up with every little “no” because I don’t believe in the potential Christ’s power can give me. While God is focused on loving me, being faithful to me, and giving me hope, I am busy dwelling on all the things I think I "need", feeling fearful, and not wanting to experience any growing pains.
I think Jeremiah felt the same way. Feeling overwhelmed that God was calling him to be a prophet (which was a job he did not want), Jeremiah pleaded with God saying:
“Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth” (Jeremiah 1:6)
We plead with God to get us out of a situation or bring us something new, telling Him, “Ah, I cannot do it!” God reminded Jeremiah and reminds us of the most powerful message for this New Year:
“Do not say, ‘I am a youth’ . . . For I am with you to deliver you . . . Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:7-10)
The process of becoming an almond tree for God requires rooting out, pulling down, destroying, and throwing down before any building or planting can be done. The “NOs” of last year are necessary to reach the “YESs” of the future.
Once I stop focusing on all the things I think I need, and begin to set my eyes on God’s big dreams for me, God will be ready to perform His work in me.
“The word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see? And I said, ‘I see a branch of an almond tree.’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am ready to perform My word.’” (Jeremiah 1:11-12).
I believe the almond tree is the perfect symbol of the faithfulness of God. Even though its journey is not the simplest, it becomes one of the strongest trees bearing one of the strongest fruits. God will say “no” to me because sometimes the “NOs” are necessary to fulfill His promise of doing “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
My resolution for this year is to not let my own desires prevent me from seeing God’s exceedingly abundant plans for me.
For discussion: what lessons have you learned about receiving those "NOs" from God?