• Mike E.

Conversations With Marry--The Lesson

I hadn't visited Marry at the river for some time, as it had been very cold and I also felt a bit strange since our last encounter. The Big Oak had told me she'd witnessed and heard every thing I'd ever uttered at the river's bank. She'd listened to every cry, heard every anguished prayer. She knew things about me I wasn't sure I wanted her to know. I wasn't sure if I wanted anyone to know. But she knew, and I was drawn back to the river's edge for one more conversation with Marry the Witness.

I approached her slowly, halfway thinking I'd gone mad. A tree is a tree, right? This was no mere tree, I realized. As I walked slowly toward her, I heard her say in a still, small voice, "So you have returned." "I suppose I have," I told her. Things were different between Marry and I now. She had knowledge about me I wasn't sure I wanted her to have. "Come closer," the Big Oak whispered, "I'm good," I said.

"Why are you troubled?" Marry asked me, in a sort of half-sad, half-knowing voice. "I'm troubled because you listened to my prayers. I'm not too happy about that," I explained. "Those were supposed to be just between me and the Lord of all things." "But I was not easvesdropping," Marry protested. "You spoke to Him out in the open. You did not mute your voice. I only witnessed what you said. It is for this reason the Lord of all things planted me here. To be a witness," she proclaimed.

"I know why you are reticent," she continued. "You are afraid." I was getting flat out annoyed now. "Well, yeah," I answered. "Because I didn't want anyone to know that stuff you heard." "I did not hear," she repeated, "I witnessed." "Whatever," I said, taking an exasperated breath. "You know now." "Yes," she agreed. "I know."

"Are you ashamed?" she asked me. "I guess I am," I answered her. "Why?" she pressed. "I don't know. Because that was a secret only I knew." "Oh no," she gently challenged me. The Lord of all things knew. He saw everything that happened to you, before you ever came to the river and told Him."

I realized she was right. My defenses began to melt away. I realized she meant no harm. "I'm sorry, Marry," I whispered to the great oak. "You were just doing what you were created to do. And yes, I'm afraid of a lot of things."

"Like what?"she asked me. I knew she already knew my fears, so I asked her why she was even asking me that. "Because the only way to overcome your shame and fear about what happened to you is to face it head on. You cannot be rid of fear if you will not admit it is there, and talk about it."

I hesitated. The great oak was coaxing me to reveal my true nature and feelings. Again, fear took hold and I was tempted to leave. But I didn't. I stood next to Marry, and began to speak of my fears. "I'm afraid if others know the truth about me, they will reject me. I mean, it's actually happened to me before so..." Marry was silent for a moment. Then, in a gentle voice, she whispered, "The Lord of all things was rejected and despised by His own people. He understands your fear."

"Yes," I remembered. My biggest fear is someone whom I love will abandon me. He was abandoned. All His friends abandoned Him at the end, except some dear ladies. Even though He wasn't insane, He was accused of being mentally ill many times. I actually am mentally ill, and I have seen the fear in my own family's faces when I am relapsing. Who wants to be around a mentally ill person whose symptoms cause them to act in irrational ways? So, in a way, He has even felt the stigma of mental illness.

And this was the lesson of Marry the Witness. That in our distress, He is distressed. A distressed God! Who can imagine it? Who can comprehend it? A distressed, abandoned, rejected, misjudged, misunderstood, God. A God Who plants witnesses to our suffering all around us. He is not absent. He empathizes with us. And He suffers with us. Blessed God and Savior.

I thanked Marry for being so patient with me. I layed my hand on her gnarly trunk. "I will return, Marry. You are my friend." As I turned to go, I heard her say, 'and you are mine as well."

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