Psalm 92:1-5, 12-15

It is good to give thanks to the AGELESS GOD,

to sing praises to you name Most High;

to declare your faithful love in the morning,

and your trustworthiness by night,

upon the ten strings and the harp,

upon the murmurings of the lyre.

For you have made me glad,

WELLSPRING OF LIFE, by your work;

at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

How great are your works, WOMB OF CREATION!

Your designs are so very profound.

A righteous woman or man flourishes like a palm tree,

and grows like a cedar in Lebanon.

They are planted in the house of SHE WHO IS HOLY;

in the courts of our God, they flourish.

Still producing fruit in their elder years;

fat with sap and ever green.

They declare that the MIGHTY GOD is upright;

she is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in her.

“These trees which [she] plants, and under whose shade [she] shall never sit, [she] loves them for themselves, and for the sake of [her] children and [her] children’s children, who are to sit beneath the shadow of their spreading boughs.” — Hyacinthe Loyson, 1866

Fall 2020 was a personally challenging time for my family, me, and the church we called home. Covid went through our house. We spent 21 days in quarantine. Several times I took the girls to hike and burn off energy. I took this photo as the children frisked along a favorite trail, Katherine pausing by the creek. Beautiful, rain-soaked roots contrasting with yellow leaves caught my eye.

What you cannot see in the picture is the bend in the creek. This creek bend along our favorite trail was also the place I came for hours of prayer that fall, winter, and spring. There I prayed for my friend and pastor, dying of cancer, and for the church losing their faithful companion of 24 years. There I was released by God from one vocational call and led to accept another. The gently flowing water called forth and caught my tears. There, on the creek-side rock, in the company of the trees, was one of the only places I found God’s consolation, the only place I could attend to God’s digging and planting within me, those long seven months.

In all my loneliness those months, I felt the strength of women and men who stood beside me like those creek-side trees. They prayed for me, listened, accompanied me in yawning grief and demanding discernment. Were it not for their roots running deep in my life, and in theirs, I would have lost my way.

This week’s Psalm describes women and men of God as towering cedars in Lebanon, “producing fruit…fat with sap and ever green.” Gafney envisions women and men rooted in SHE WHO IS HOLY’s garden. These trees produce the fruit of God’s blossoming dream, unfurling itself in creation.

It occurs to me that the towering, Spirit-filled, generative women and men who’ve invested in my life, planting seeds, watering, and pruning, will not see the fullness of my life’s fruit. But they have always believed in it. They shelter me in the shade of their leaves though they will not rest in mine. They allow me to climb the heights of their branches that my vision might extend beyond theirs; they rejoice at my seeing further. The fruit of their lives is the gleaming fruit of others’ flourishing.

As my roots grow deeper in the garden of SHE WHO IS HOLY, I see the company of towering women and men among whom I’m planted. I realize the opportunity I have to be a flourishing fruit-filled tree, sustaining those in creek-bend moments. I am learning the work that goes into being such a tree, work that is different than I once expected. It has little to do with me and more to do with investing in others’ futures. Yet it requires careful tending of my one small life: saying “no” to some things now so that I can say “yes” to producing fruit in my “elder years”; daily visits to the WELLSPRING OF LIFE where I say “yes” to the unhindered flow of God’s love; putting my hand to the plow, not looking back, looking forward to God’s dream coming in my spiritual descendants.

May you see yourself today among these towering, flourishing trees in God’s garden. May you find refuge beneath the branches of those who know you well and love you always. May knowing the fruit of your life become the fruit of your spiritual descendants help you extend your branches, take up your God-given space in God’s garden, and sing for joy at what the WOMB OF CREATION is birthing in, and beyond, you.

Rev. Hannah Coe is Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. She and her husband, David, are watching their three daughters grow into mighty, flourishing oaks in God’s beautiful garden.

This blog series made possible in part by a gift from Myers Park Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC.