On the back porch in the cool of the evening, I sat as a child with my father as he de-stressed from work. He was a man of a few words, so I watched silently as his strong hands cracked pecans produced from the large pecan tree in our yard. It was a peaceful time. Every so often he would lean over with a fresh pecan and pop it in my mouth while smiling down at me. We had a red cardinal that lived in that large pecan tree and at times it would make an appearance. Dad would smile and say, “Make a wish.” I would close my eyes and make the same wish, then open my eyes and glance towards the large sliding doors of our home. With compassion, my dad would gently pat my leg, knowing what I wished for. I wished she loved me. I knew she was my birth mother because Dad would reassure me by telling my birth story, but at times it didn’t feel that way. As I became an adult and moved away, I naturally pushed away those who said they loved me. The pain of trusting in that hope was too difficult. I didn’t know there was someone who loved me so much that He died for me.
Years later, in a not-so-trusting way, I ventured to the church across the street where my husband and I had visited the day before. I always felt “dragged” to church by my husband and felt like I had to play the game of being a Christian. However, this pastor seemed so genuinely warm and friendly. He radiated a joyous glow. Not trusting that his joy was real, I walked the hallway of the church, looking for the lighting setup that caused his face to glow. Suddenly a door opened and I was standing face-to-face with the pastor. With a radiant smile, he asked what I needed. My finger pointed at his face and I asked, “Why are you so happy and what is that glow?” His grin widened and he said, “It’s Jesus.” Right then and there, I accepted Jesus with a renewed hope. Later, as I was walking home, a red cardinal flew past me. I had not noticed any for years since I left home.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). I had a sick heart that needed to be mended, and the Lord, the Great Physician, began a “good work in me” from that moment forward. As I learned more and more about Jesus, hope began to spring forth as water in a dry desert. A red cardinal took up residence in our backyard and my father’s words rang out, “Make a wish.”
Months turned into years, and one day I was prepared to talk to my mom about my wish. As I drove into the driveway that seemed to stretch forever, I hoped for acceptance. She greeted me warmly and I ran into her arms and told her how much I loved her. Tears formed in her eyes as she spoke of her love for me. As a child, could I have misunderstood her way of loving me?
As we talked for many hours, I came to understand that her childhood and even adulthood had been bathed in mistrust and hopelessness from her parents. The risk of giving her heart ruled her. As I said goodbye, I looked up at that old pecan tree and perched on a limb was a red cardinal. It was a reminder of Christ’s blood shed on the cross, an answer to my wish. My mom lived long past the years after our talk and those three words, “I love you,” were exchanged repeatedly. Today I have another red cardinal who has taken up residence in our yard. He makes his appearance often and each time I see him, my heart is filled with the joy of renewed hope in a God who answers our wishes.
Let’s bow and pray:
Lord, there are things in my life where hope seems to have been deferred. As I name them, I lay them at Your feet, trusting You as the Great Physician to mend my hope. I am confident that You will bring to pass resolutions to this hurting, hopeless heart. I ask for Your ways as I seek Your face, and for You to restore a joy that I felt was lost. I also ask for encouragement during this restoration period. Lord, I praise You in faith that all things will come to pass that I have laid at Your feet. Thank you, Lord. Amen.