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Blackened Knees

A perfect spot to camp

A hawk skims the water looking for prey. I find some consolation in seeing the winged hunter come up empty clawed. We are not the only ones without fishing success. Aside from another angling defeat and perhaps a bit too much rain — we quite enjoyed ourselves nestled into a postcard-perfect camping spot next to a glacier-fed lake with mountains and wildlife all around.

Such beauty is good for the soul—even young souls.

My Ten-year-old daughter Jemma has been praying fervently and working hard too.

A beautiful tree had its life cut short by a merciless chainsaw. Jemma has tenderly replanted it clawing out a hole with her bare hands. Getting down deep “to the good soil,” she tells me and all the while praying to Jesus that the tree might again have life.

“It will take a miracle,” I tell her.
“I know,” she says that’s precisely what she’s hoping for
A few of the greens remain on the extreme tips of some of the branches they haven’t entirely fallen off yet. But Jemma sees them as new life. She points to the last vestiges of greenery, “look, dad, it’s growing — see!”

Jemma tenderly places a daisy at the stump of the tree, beautifying the upturned soil and encouraging the severed sapling to defy the odds and grow. When my daughter finally crawls into our tent and comes to bed, I see her knees are darkened to near black—evidence of a days worth of praying and working hard for the resurrection.

She’s happy, she’s doing good work, and she believes.

Should I squash her faith and teach her the harsh realities of nature. Tough lessons about life and death? — No.

At 10, she already understands that things go away and don’t come back. She doesn’t need any more guidance about death.

This intuitive longing that lives in the deeper reaches of every human heart is not something best squashed. The unfolding trauma of life will do a good enough job-crushing it. I don’t need to help snuff out the flame.

Instead, this yearning is something to be listened to and cultivated. Religion of every kind exists because this longing to overcome death is real. It’s as real as it gets. Here at this campsite, in front of this dead tree, my daughter is connected to that longing, she should cling to it as long as she can, and I should help her.

Hope is alive in us all, we are wired to long for more. Could it be that there is something more, or better yet, someone more to whom all our hopes could be connected? Even our hope to overcome death, the great robber of all hopes?

If we take the time to listen to our insides and hear what our gut tells us, the answer is yes.

Will the tree, lovingly replanted, decorated, and fervently prayed over, but non the less decapitated from its roots just become firewood after we leave? Or will it rob death, and live on, a miracle answer to my daughter’s impassioned prayers? The tree may well end up in the fire ring with the next campers that come, but the hope that came alive in my daughter this week was beautiful and right and good. It’s the hope that challenges death itself, and that is something that must never die.

Hope is strong in this one
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