Beneath the Shade - Guest Writer, Chrystan Ferrell
The following story was submitted to The Holy Ordinary Collective by writer and speaker, Chrystal Ferrell. You can read more about her following her story, and you can listen to the audio version of her story on our podcast.
The shade of a tree reminds me of protection and rest. On any given day it could shield us from the rays of the sun, the howling wind or even from the storm. A tree offers us a seat of rest, provision from its fruit and water from its trunk.
There’s a story in the Bible about Gomer and Hosea. (side note, Gomer, not likely to be on the top baby names list ever) I’m not going to tell you the story word for word but instead, I want to tell you a story like it.
Jack was my son once, only for a little while. He lived under my roof. Slept in a bed in my home, in a room that we still call Jack’s room. He ate at my kitchen counter. He laughed at my jokes. Jack was my son once, but now he is not.
His life was really hard when I knew him. One of seven children living in a trailer. He saw things no child should see. He did things, no child should have to do. He was abused, neglected and taught love in a way that a child should not know love.
When Jack came to us, the first few days were blissful. He had clean clothes, a shower, a pantry filled with food and a his own bed. Not to mention twenty-six acres of farmland where he could ride four wheelers, go fishing and play baseball. He loved baseball. He hadn't had the chance to play sports before.
We enrolled him in camp, which he swiftly was kicked out of. We worked on school work with him (because he was so behind) which he hated us for. We loved him like we loved our own boys, but that only made him angrier. He only wanted what he knew, even though what he knew was awful. I just didn’t understand. We were offering him everything a boy could ever want. A big house full of laughter and love, his own room, brothers who didn’t beat him up, a mother and father who parented with love, clothes, books, toys, basically everything a kid could ever want. Everything but a life he knew, the only life he knew.
Jack couldn’t get over the hatred he had for his new life. The glitz and glam of our world had worn off and all he had left was anger. After all we were doing, after all, we were willing to do, Jack was removed from our home by the state. He was physically harming one of our children when our backs were turned. We had no choice but to allow the state to place him in a long-term care facility, where he would stay until he was returned to the life he knew before.
The story of Gomer and Hosea is a story that represents God and his people. Gomer is the wife of Hosea. Plucked out of a hard life, wrecked in sin and shame and brought into a life much better than the one she knew,. Gomer should have been content and overjoyed at the life offered to her, yet she continued to go back to her old life. Hosea continued to chase after her, forgive her and bring her back to him. We are Gomer, God is Hosea. We continue to choose what doesn’t make sense. God offers us so much, yet we continue to return to a life he never wanted for us.
What happened with Jack still doesn’t make sense to me. We were willing to go the distance with him. We were prepared to run the marathon race, but instead, we were only allowed to run a few miles. I dream about him. I think about him. I pray for him and often wonder where he is. Is he ok? What kind of life does he have? I want to bring him back and give him the love he deserves, but it’s just not my job right now. Right now, I run after him in prayer.
I don’t know if we will foster again. Losing Jack after enduring so much with him was so hard. I am praying for what God’s plan is for us. Yet he has shown me so much through the story of redeeming love he has set before us. How he chases after us even when we run. How he leaves the ninety-nine to come after us time and time again. How we reject him in our humanity but he still relentlessly loves and pursues us.
It doesn’t make sense that we would not sit under the shade of a tree on a hot day. It doesn’t make sense that we would not eat the fruit and drink the water provided us when we are parched. It doesn’t make sense that we would choose a life of sin and shame over a life of abundance and grace. Yet we still do it. Like my Jack, we want to return to what we know because for some reason it feels like love. But God says return to me and live beneath my shade. Grow on the vine and blossom in my love. This is love. That he would still offer us shade even though we are weary because we ran from him for so long.
May we each return to the shade, stay there and grow in the love poured out for us.
“The people will return and live beneath his shade. They will grow grain and blossom like the vine. His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon.” Hosea 14:7
Chrystan began her official online writing journey in 2010, with a tiny blog about her journey from life as a single mom to life as a wife. God changed that tiny blogspot into a website, into an online ministry, speaking career and now a book. Over the last few years Chrystan stepped into the role of Chief Operations Officer for Imperfectly Brave, a quickly growing midwest women’s ministry on prayer. Through this leadership experience and her own prayer group, Chrystan developed a passion and voice for authentic community and connection among Christian women. Outside of her own website she can be found guest blogging for: Life Around the Coffee Cup, For Every Mom, Real Raw Redeemed, Imperfectly Brave and MOB Society. Chrystan has also been a featured speaker at the Imperfectly Brave Weekend events in Kansas City yearly and across the nation for the past three years. In 2018 she was the keynote speaker for Rise Up Conference in Indiana and will be leading worship in Houston, Texas at Kingwood Baptist Church for their Fall women’s retreat. Most weeks you will find Chrystan passionately teaching an ever-growing group of women around her 8-foot farmhouse table in Missouri, serving at her local church and pouring into her family of six because her first true love is Jesus.