Marry the Witness
There is a county park near my home. A river runs through it. In some places, it's more like a babbling brook, but it opens up and there is a fairly strong current.
I've been visiting this park as a place of refuge for years. I go to listen to the water flow, to pray, and to recharge emotionally.
About 30 feet from the banks of the river, there sits a huge, beautiful oak tree. Though I'd visited many times, I never really payed the tree any mind. Always much more interested in the river. But the oak had been there the whole time.
I'd been meditating on Isaiah 61 for a long time. It's a wonderful chapter in a wonderful book of the Bible. It's a prophecy of the coming Messiah, written some 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, the Messiah Himself, went to the synagogue one day, and was handed the scroll of Isaiah to read from (Mark 4). He quoted Isaiah 61.
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
Such a beautiful description of Messiah's work in human souls. It's the promise of a suffering Savior with a heart for the poor, the brokenhearted, the marginalized, and the wounded.
Being a trauma survivor, I fit right in the middle of Isaiah 61. He's talking about me! He promises to restore, to repair those who are broken. Not only to repair--but to replace.
He will replace the losses the broken people suffer. Broken people suffer grief; they mourn their losses, and sometimes are given to despair.
The Messiah, says the prophet, will provide for the broken people a crown of beauty to replace the ashes of mourning. He will replace their brokenness with joy and praise.
Then He makes this amazing promise. Messiah will give these broken people a new name. They will be called "oaks of righteousness," planted by God, for the express purpose of displaying God's glory.
It was with these verses ringing in my ears that I visited my river refuge. And, after a very long time of never noticing the oak, my attention fixed on the very large tree. "Wow," I thought. "I've never noticed you before."
I began to fixate on her. She stood prominently, clothed with dignity and strength, her huge trunk rooted deeply in the ground.
"Why have I never noticed this tree?" I wondered. It was because I was always so focused on the moving river water. She had been there every time I'd ever visited. And I never noticed her.
"That's sad," I thought. So engrossed in something beautiful, I'd missed something even more beautiful. Perhaps it just wasn't yet God's time to introduce us. But now, the time had come.
I moved toward her, and she was inviting me to come to her. I marveled at her majestic yet gnarly wood. I walked around her and admired her strength. How deep and strong her roots must be, I thought.
"What is your name," I asked the river oak.
She didn't answer. I noticed on her trunk, someone had carved something into her. "Will U marry me?"
"Is that your name?" I asked her. "Marry?"
"Yes," she finally spoke. "I am Marry the Witness."
"Well, hello Marry," I said. "I am Mike." "Why are you called the Witness?" I asked her.
"I was planted here by the Lord of all things to be a witness to all the souls who come and visit the river," she explained.
I was intrigued. The Lord Himself had planted her?
Sensing my intrigue, she began to explain how she's been on the river bank for so many years. She said she'd seen many human activities. "I have seen much joy among the souls who have passed here," she proclaimed. "Families swimming together, friends barbecuing, children running and laughing, lovers playfully splashing each other."
"And," she continued, "I have seen such sorrow here." My countenance fell as she began to recount her testimony of the things she had seen.
"I have seen young girls, brought here and abused. I have seen little boys drown just down the river way." My countenance fell. "That's really terrible, Marry. I'm sorry."
I realized the sorrow she had witnessed had made a deep impact on her. I did not want to push her further, almost afraid of what more she might have to tell me.
I told Marry I would return to see her and we could continue our conversations. I wondered as I walked away, what she might witness until I returned.