Driving in the predawn hours along the winding road that leads through the mountains, the cold gray light of dawn ages everything. Outbuildings and barns appear centuries old, if not close to it in reality. Then the aged fence row, that corner where the rusted barbed-wire is intertwined with honeysuckle vines, comes into view. The wood of the posts, rough-hewn from trees long forgotten, now cracks long furrowed brows of age, leaning one against the other for bracing or sheer moral support. To the passerby, the entirety of the corner is a jumble of vines, rusty wire, and weathered wood. But if one were to stop and breathe in the scene, they would find something much more profound.
Having sweated and bled over many a length of ancient wire such as this in my farming days, corners like this one were all too familiar. There, in that forgotten end of the pasture, a strength from nature’s own would begin to recompense into another form – honeysuckle and briars would interweave themselves into that ancient wood making a formidable foe, one relying upon the other for support. In this scene of decay and unfettered growth, one could find a sense of need, a feeling of caring for those that need us to be there for them, day in and day out.
As the campus begins to breathe new life, students returning with parents in tow, each seeking a new future, there again is that feeling – a dependency of need, one for the other. Yet, beyond that wild vine growing unabated, there is the aged support. We can all look in the mirror and realize we aren’t the spring chicken we once were. Those lines, those furrowed brows tell a story of worry and woe, some far greater than others. Although they show signs of wear, even if there is strength in their core, the façade is one that we cannot deny. No amount of makeup or plastic surgery can dismiss the truth. Time does not lie. So, as the youth’s vibrancy evolves from a sleeping landscape into a living being, those with memories of yore become the support for those entering this new world.
In the eyes of the young, thoughts of gray hair and being old are only distant shores, places to cross in some far-off future. For now, they are immortal in their youthful minds. To mention the mere thought of eternity or mortality becomes simply a nuance, a fairytale from whence more exuberant adventure stories can evolve. For in their gaming worlds, you might die, but you quickly regenerate, return to life once again through some superpower. Unlike those weathered locust posts on our fence line, whose demise is slow but perpetual, the young adult only knows of a never-ending repeating cycle of death and regeneration in their make-believe worlds of social media and online games. Their bodies try to mimic this feat, with some pushing the boundaries beyond what is mortal. In the end, their fate can be predicted by those who recognize such patterns of ill-advised decisions. Yet, for one to believe, one must almost always find out first-hand.
As Jesus spoke to his disciples, they listened and heard every word. Yet, again, for one to believe, sometimes a person must feel the pain of reality before learning sinks in. But like those unruly briars, those disciples’ paths were not retaining the preaching of the Christ, but rather, went off into directions that were inconsequential, of no use. It wasn’t until that day when their leader finally hung on an aged, weathered cross, its furrows deep from years of persisting in the elements, now filling with the blood of Christ. Like the veins of a new being, the wood comes alive as the slain Savior above slowly dies a painful death. His life ebbs as the tree now part of an unbelievable, unfathomable, cataclysmic event unfolds before the eyes of the multitude of haters. Those who persecuted Jesus could not understand how God could come to earth in the flesh as a man. God incarnate was against their law. They despised him from the beginning and sought to take his life only because he spoke the truth. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.”
As those disciples watched in horror as their Savior, the Son of God, died on the cross, they felt their support slowly eroding, being torn from their grasp. It was too late to turn back and rescind any doubts. It was too late to take back those moments when they questioned his deity. As the bracing of that ancient corner of the pasture was being ripped out, those sweet-smelling vines shredded from the grasp of that olden wood; likewise, their hearts wept bitter tears of pain as his leaving was becoming a reality.
In the darkest, coldest, bitter nights on a college campus in the lonely corner of a dormitory, often near the latter stages of a semester, students begin to realize how they had mistaken that loving support of their parents or caretakers. Those helpful suggestions from that caring professor come back to haunt them as they face the magnitude of their decisions. Suddenly gone are all those bravado moments of fleeting joy, the inescapable memories of ridiculous expectations of what they thought they were in the light of what they really would become. Those pleasures of the flesh have vanished, and with them, their supposed friends.
So too, those disciples began to retrace all the words which Jesus had said to them. Those many parables and warnings of his imminent death suddenly roared back like a tidal wave of humility and soul-sucking regret until they ran from the scene of Golgotha. Their hearts were breaking as their chests pounded from lack of oxygen, racing down the mountain hoping to flee all that had transpired. But too soon, as do those students who come to college for all the wrong reasons, all find that there is a day of reckoning.
But Jesus told his followers that even though he would leave them, he would send a comforter. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.”
As those students often forget, when they leave home, they sometimes try to leave everything, including all they had been taught in growing up, there is an answer to their darkness. Like those disciples that ran and hid, there would be an answer. Although it wouldn’t be there the following day, the answer would begin to manifest itself three days later when Christ would arise from the dead. However, it wasn’t until he ascended to heaven that what he had predicted came true. For there in that upper room in Jerusalem where they hid from authorities, they finally received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Christ had finally been glorified, the mission had been completed, and now, the Comforter had been sent to be with them until their dying days.
Likewise, those who find darkness overpowering their world don’t have to give up. While their academic or perceived future may have to be redirected or cut short, it is not the end. Those dark, lonely nights when the realization hits home, it is then that we pray somewhere, somehow, they either remember those lessons learned from their childhood in Sunday School, or that somehow, they have heard there is hope in Christ Jesus. Although it may seem as if life is over when those grades begin to slip and those grandiose aspirations begin to fade, all is not lost. There is something much more precious in life that awaits if only we seek it. For God doesn’t make us love him but instead wants us to choose him. It is our option, not our mandate. We can carry on living our lives trying to make it on our own, but in the end, we can never work our way into heaven. It is by God’s grace that we don’t receive what we are due, an eternity in hell. It is by His saving Grace, through the sacrifice of the blood of the pure lamb of God, his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, that we can have the hope of life eternal.
For now, the fence row sits in the shadow of the mountain. That corner continues to stand as the ivy and honeysuckle continue to weave their network of hope around those ancient weathered beams of support. Like the threads of our existence, that rusted wire slowly erodes, but together, wire, wood, and vine continue to withstand the forces of this world as long as possible. The bend of the fence row stood long before my time and will likely continue to do so long after I’m gone. We are only here for a brief moment in time when compared to eternity. It is up to us to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. For as old as the story may be, its truth is more vital today than ever before, for it is not of our own hopes and desires but comes from the ultimate woven being, God, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
Seek God, search him with all your heart, and you will find Him. Knock, and the door shall be opened. For it is by His saving grace that we have the hope of life eternal.
Thanks be to God.