DUSKI VAN FLEET|GUEST
These past few years have been hard on our family. I see the Lord at work, and while this is an anchor of hope, I’d be lying if I said this head knowledge always translates to my heart. I struggle to believe He’s near while everything in me feels abandoned. We are a family of deep intense feelers, and we all process our feelings in different ways. My husband and I feel remarkably underqualified in communicating our own feelings in healthy ways, while at the same time trying to figure out how to teach our children to do the same. In moments of desperation, I ask God why so much has to exhaust us relationally, and why He allows marriage and parenting—even with all of the joys—to be so painful. Sometimes I even wonder if it’s worth it to keep my heart in the fight.
A Necessary Cutting
A few years ago, my father-in-law, a retired forester, cut our azalea bushes down almost to the main stem. It saddened me to agree to it because they were so green and full. Or at least I thought they were. Cutting them seemed counterintuitive, but I learned soon enough that outside appearances don’t always reveal what’s truly below the surface.
Even though I was afraid cutting them back would do irreparable damage, I agreed, trusting his expertise. When he was finished, I saw the true state of the health of our bushes. What was left was nothing but dry, brittle sticks. I wondered, “What if we’ve cut away all the beauty and all we’ll ever have now is dead twigs? At least there were flowers on the outside!”
He then showed me the evidence of life inside the branches and explained that since all the foliage on the outside had been cut away, the bush can now get the light it needs to grow. All the beautiful green we saw on the outside had covered over the dying process underneath which eventually would have led to the death of the bush. We’d just have to go through a few seasons of not seeing much green, but they would grow again and be even more beautiful.
I don’t like waiting.
The next year, we didn’t have any blooms, but we did have a lot of new green growth all throughout the bushes. Then last spring, two years after the dramatic cutback, our bushes were covered in more glorious blooms than I could imagine! They were vibrant and full. The cutting away was necessary for new growth and more beauty.
Yielding to the Lord’s Cutting
This spring when I saw the barren, brittle sticks hiding beneath the green falling to the ground as I worked the shears, I was reminded that the Lord has not abandoned me. Like the outer green leaves on my azalea bushes, the control and knowledge I have so often trusted to bring me life have only been covering over the frail, dry unbelief tucked away deeper below the surface. In cutting away these false parts of myself through relational difficulty—though painful, exposing, and discouraging—the Lord is showing me He is here, He loves me, and He created me for more than what I can see.
Because of His grace, I have a choice. When I choose to yield to what the Lord is cutting away, I experience more life, and I’m able to offer that same life to those around me. But when I cling to what feels safe and familiar (my flesh), the woman He created me to be shrivels underneath, and I operate from fear—which only causes more heartache.
He called me out of darkness and into light because of His great mercy, not because of anything good within me (1 Peter 2:9). Now my heart desires the things He desires, and I’m able to cooperate with Him against my flesh and the ways evil distorts the truth. He began this good work in me, and He will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). Remembering these truths gives me hope in the midst of despair, because I know the results are not dependent upon my performance, but on the power of His Spirit within me.
Seeing those barren twigs under the green as I trimmed the bushes this year was a startling reminder to me of what I want to choose. I want to grow, and growth is hard and slow. I’ve been hiding behind self-reliance, fear, and control for over thirty years, so I imagine it’s going to take time to grow and mature in my trust in the Lord. It’s what I want though. I’ve seen the death in my own heart and the hearts of those I love when I choose to hide. I’ve also seen glimpses of the life that blooms and is revealed through me when the light of who He is and the woman I am in Christ shines onto the unbelief in my heart.
I want more of the beauty.
About the Author:
Duski Van Fleet
Duski Van Fleet received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Samford University in Birmingham. She is wife to Daniel, who God is using more than anyone to show her the woman He made her to be. She is thankful to be spending her days learning and playing with her two kids, and she also enjoys letting them spend time with their grandparents while she goes to work once a week. She enjoys quiet mornings with coffee, especially when she doesn’t have to reheat it multiple times. She loves to sing, is learning to play the piano again, and is passionate about helping others look for God in their stories. Her favorite day would be spent outside on a warm day with birds, a gentle breeze, and a good book. She and her family are grateful to be a part of their community at Christ Community Church in Helena, AL.