It was the most stunning tree I’ve ever seen. Not for towering height or a strong, thick trunk telling age-old rings of history. No, it was because this tree’s blooms were the largest, most striking white flowers I’ve seen. It looked as if someone had fastened white tulips to each branch, and each were at different stage of openness.
I was sitting under this tree last spring when I remembered the words of a friend, spoken last fall about a flower blooming. In some deep part of my spirit, I had felt a promise, an invitation from God, though I didn’t yet know what it meant.
When I sat underneath this tree, I was at a prayer retreat with some dear friends, and we were pondering and praying over the question, “What is God releasing you from, or to?”
Under the tree, staring up at those open and closed blooms, my eyes were drawn to those that were open. They were spread out, open to the sun and to inquiring eyes, freely showing their beauty. When I saw them, something deep inside resonated. I felt God was showing a picture of His invitation to me. He was releasing me to open up like these flowers and show what is within.
Now, I am a private kind of person. I wouldn’t necessarily choose to be this way; I’d much rather be open and free with my thoughts and expressions. I have to work at it constantly to contribute at my house church. But I find I am able to process internally while writing; when with others, I’m usually much more interested in what they have to say than what I have to say back.
In some ways this is good. I love being a good listener, but in truth, it is something I can easily hide behind. I am very good at staying hidden. Hidden is easier because it means not being seen for who I am, and then a judgment can’t be formed about who I am. Fear is convenient, but not in a lasting way. Staying hidden can mean I am protected from rejection, but it also means that deep, trusting relationships can stay firmly out of grasp.
Over the past year, God has been awakening a change in me. I’m learning to become more open in my conversations. I’m learning to show my stuff. And while this alone has been monumental, God has been opening another invitation in the area of music. When it comes to art, whether visual, musical, or other, there is an element of humanity in it that comes from a deep place of vulnerability. God has been releasing me to openness in music, to opening up like those flowers and accessing that part of my heart. If I want to fully love others, that means using my gifts. It means speaking up. So for me, He’s been releasing me from fear. Fear of developing guitar or of writing songs, fear of what I’ll find, or especially what others will think of my discovery.
He’s releasing me from fear and to art. I am released to create with Him. What is God releasing you from, and to?
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
Melissa Atkinson lives in the Portland area where she teaches preschool. Melissa graduated from Multnomah University. Melissa and her husband Bryan are part of the Summit Fellowships house church network where she is emerging as a worship leader.