A Dry Tree

olive shoots

Oh, prayer time. Often boring, sometimes painful, always worth doing. I do half an hour a day, and today I sat for a full 24 minutes before checking the clock! That’s an achievement. When I saw that there were only 6 minutes left, I decided that was just enough time to get through the next chapter in Isaiah. Here’s what jumped out:

And let not the eunuch say,
‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’
For thus says the Lord:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
I will give in my house and within my walls
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
which shall not be cut off.

I admit, I didn’t want to highlight that one at first. If someone finds my Bible and happens to open to that passage, I don’t want them thinking my, um, equipment doesn’t work. But eh, whatever: let them think what they want. When the Spirit decides to sharpen a verse and stab you in the gut with it (in a good way), you don’t argue.

I think the verse applies not only to me, but to everyone who’s unmarried, whether by choice or otherwise. Children are one of the great blessings of life, it’s true. I always think about that beautiful passage from Psalm 128:

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.

Who wouldn’t want that? But what does that mean for someone with no wife, no children? Poor me: no vine, no shoots, just a dry stalk.

Not so, says God. What do we, the eunuchs, get? “A monument and a name better than sons and daughters…an everlasting name which shall not be cut off.”

That’s just the sort of comfort the Bible often provides. It’s not terribly specific: it doesn’t say what we’ll get, exactly. That’s frustrating, but it’s also good: we don’t know how to want the right things. Here’s a little T. S. Eliot that comes in handy:

I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing…

I’m not going to sit here and hope for a wife or for children. Or for fame, or for fortune. If I insist on any of those things, I’ll be twisting the path of my life into a direction that might not be natural, might not be what God intends for me, might not fit. I might succeed in getting those things, by brute force. And if that happens, those things will probably make me miserable. Who hasn’t seen a marriage where everyone involved wants out?
But if I do what I can and keep my trust intact; and if, above all, I keep the Lord’s holy days, do the things that please Him, hold fast to His covenant; I’ll be no dry tree, but

a tree planted by running waters,
which yields its fruit in due season
and whose leaf does not wither.

Who are the dry vines, who are the chaff? They are the wicked, and the wind blows them away. My hope is in the name of the Lord, not in the things he gives me; and I will not be shaken.

17 Comments on “A Dry Tree”

  1. Leila says:

    Whoa! This is excellent. And, I have never seen that verse in Isaiah! That is powerful. As a wife with eight children, I have lived out Psalm 128, but I’m thinking that whole Isaiah thing is looking good, too! God amazes….

  2. Anne says:

    Your faith is utterly uplifting to me. Thank you.

  3. Ok, so I know this is old, but I’m new here. You have to know that this blog and all that is coming of it, and will come of it, is your fruitful vine, with more spiritual children than you could ever possibly physically father.

  4. This is so beautiful, thank you for sharing. I just found you via Jen’s Quick Takes.

  5. Nicola says:

    Reading this gave me goosebumps and so much renewed faith in God’s plan for my life. You have a way of spelling out what I feel in my heart is true but can’t articulate.

  6. diane penney says:

    this is beautiful. my college age son has a friend who will find such consolation in this. to date all he has been offered is isolation on one side of the world and lies on the other – and two paragraphs from the catechism. my son has tried articulating what he has been able to digest from theology of the body to him, but in response has gotten facebook messages that read, “not enough, hurry up with something else.” this may be a start. thank you and god bless.

    1. So glad to hear it, Diane. Thanks for passing that along. And I know what you mean by “two paragraphs from the catechism”…slim pickings, really.

      Two books I’d recommend, both of which helped me: The Homosexual Person, by Fr. John Harvey, helped me to understand myself better, and Growth Into Manhood, by Alan Medinger, helped me know what to do about it.

  7. Mary says:

    You are already an inspiration to me Steve. Your writing style is easy, fun, and absolutely beautiful. You’re helping me learn and grow so much! No way are you a dry tree! I think I may be one of your spiritual daughters.

  8. Nellie says:

    Reading your article is like breathing fresh air. I’m a mother of 4 young man and I find it difficult to touch on the gay issues. But SSA, surely makes discussion easier. May God bless you Steve.

  9. Shannon says:

    I loved the part:
    “If I insist on any of those things, I’ll be twisting the path of my life into a direction that might not be natural, might not be what God intends for me, might not fit. I might succeed in getting those things, by brute force. And if that happens, those things will probably make me miserable.”

    As a single woman, it is often hard not to try to force things to happen, and wonder why they aren’t happening how. It is a challenge to live faithfully everyday with trust – humble confidence that God is at work in my life and in the lives of those around me.


  10. Steve says:

    Hey Steve — Have you ever been in love with a man?

  11. Christopher says:

    I never thought of it this way. I only look at the “cross” side of homosexuality and not the opportunity to rely more on God. Michael Voris made a great point about how homosexuals actually can have a more rich and full relationship with God than many heterosexuals, I think it had to do with intimacy with God (although I believe that married heterosexuals can have the same intimacy with Him, but I see his point).

    I was blessed reading this.

    In Nomine Christis,

  12. Chad says:

    That’s really good insight about how one’s insistence on getting something in this life – be it a wife or children or something else assumed to be the key to happiness – is misguided and could actually lead to misery. Good for you for recognizing this, and thanks for sharing with all of us.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Amazing insights. Wonderful blog.

  14. Ann says:

    I’ve come to the realization that I’ll probably never have a family.
    Just something about my personality.
    27 and never been asked out by a guy. A pattern of them never interested in me. They don’t see me that way or show any interest. (except older married men. Purely innocent, platonic, of course. They love to tell me about their kids.) As for the rest, Never, ever. Only one seemed to see me differently. He saw me as so special.
    And, after losing him, I stopped feeling attracted to men. (Except him)Not wanting to forget him. I want kids and probably won’t have any. But happy, because of Christ in my soul.

    For it is written: “Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.”

  15. savo says:

    The bond of spiritual fellowship is a lifespring beyond the mortal imagination. Thank you for sharing the depth of your cares.

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