HOPE AND THE TREE OF LIFE

Activated - - NEWS - By Elsa Sichrovsky Elsa Sichrovsky is a free­lance writer. She lives with her fam­ily in Tai­wan.

He’s a tall, tanned, lanky fel­low in his mid-six­ties—older than most of the other ven­dors at the fruit and veg­etable mar­ket. He in­vari­ably greets his cus­tomers with a ra­di­ant smile.

One hot July morn­ing when I ap­proached his stall, I was sur­prised to see that he was wear­ing a thick brace around his neck. It stretched from the tip of his chin to his shoul­ders, and al­though he did not com­plain, his eyes be­trayed his dis­com­fort. He ex­plained that he’d had an au­to­mo­bile ac­ci­dent and was re­cov­er­ing from an op­er­a­tion.

It was the peak of Tai­wanese sum­mer, when hu­mid­ity lev­els soar and tem­per­a­tures rise to un­com­fort­able lev­els. I cringed as I imag­ined how he felt to be wear­ing a brace of wo­ven plas­tic in the blis­ter­ing, sul­try heat of an out­door mar­ket. He saw my con­cern and smiled. “It will get bet­ter. All wounds heal, and whin­ing about how hard it is won’t help any.” I paid for my pur­chases and promised to pray for him.

When I saw him again two weeks later, the brace re­mained, but so did his smile.

“Are you in a lot of pain?” I asked. “That brace must be so both­er­some!”

“It is painful and sti­fling,” he agreed, “but what keeps me go­ing is think­ing of that won­der­ful day when it’ll be gone and I will move about freely again. Hav­ing some­thing to hope for re­ally helps!”

As time passed, that “won­der­ful day” seemed to not ar­rive. He didn’t re­cover as quickly as an­tic­i­pated, and the brace re­mained for over a month. But my friend kept cling­ing to hope and kept re­fus­ing to de­spair, even as he strug­gled to main­tain his busi­ness while un­der­go­ing treat­ment.

At last, the day came when he was freed from the brace’s grip. A large red scar was vis­i­ble on his neck, but he held his head high with no trace of self-con­scious­ness and willingly shared how glad he was to be free of the brace. His joy re­minded me of the verse, “Hope de­ferred makes the heart sick, but a dream ful­filled is a tree of life.”

1 My friend is a tes­ti­mony of what Paul calls “en­durance in­spired by hope.” His hope wasn’t just a vague

2 de­sire or fan­ci­ful ide­al­ism. It was a choice to be­lieve that no pain lasts for­ever, that all wounds heal. It didn’t mat­ter how long or dif­fi­cult the process; what mat­tered was keep­ing his spirit buoy­ant and cling­ing to the prom­ise of a bet­ter fu­ture. As I weather life’s storms, his ex­am­ple in­spires me to hang on when things look bleak. I will cling to the One in whom my hope is “as an an­chor of the soul, both sure and stead­fast.”

3

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