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Born in the Barren (Visual Art)

Posted by Denise Tsang on


By Denise Tsang, ink pen and color pencil

This image from the Lord has carried me through the last several months. It's a reminder that, in seasons that feel dry and fruitless, there are roots that grow deep and are sometimes unseen by others. As we enter fall, a season representing change, this reminder of constantly changing seasons in life—seasons brimming with life and joy and seasons that are uncomfortably cold and barren—feels appropriate.

I believe hope lies in the truth that difficult seasons will not last forever. I can only imagine how miserable we would be if only one season persisted for the rest of our lives (especially as a Californian who cannot adapt to temperatures beyond the range of 65 - 85 degrees Fahrenheit). There is beauty to be appreciated in every season, which we can more fully appreciate knowing there are others unlike it. 

In desert seasons of the soul, God meets us intimately. In the Bible, we find many examples of profound experiences in the desert. Jesus himself was in the desert for forty days before having his confrontation with and victory over Satan's attempt to divert him. The Israelites were in the desert for forty years, learning to depend solely on God's provision and guidance, often failing horribly yet still experiencing his abundant grace.

During dry spells, the roots of trees grow deeper in their search for water and minerals. This further anchors the tree. In my own dry spell, I felt ashamed when different areas of my life were not bearing fruit or even a single green leaf. My soul felt weary from endless questions and persistent doubts. My faith felt feeble, my prayers half-hearted.

At times, I didn't know where God was and could not say with confidence he was working in my life. How could I prove it? Where was the living water Jesus talked of when I was parched and left wanting? 

During those times, picking up my Bible felt like carrying the weight of the world. I could barely open to a page, let alone read what was on it. My prayers only grasped at memories of promises I once boldly claimed. I felt lost in terms of my identity and where my life was going. The state of my soul was bleak; part of me believed this season would not end.

In my searching and wandering, I've found myself straining for something more, going deeper than I would have gone before. I am no longer satisfied with surface-level answers to complicated problems. I want solid truth I can stand on, my feet firmly planted and my back straight. I want roots that go so deep there is no question where my source of life comes from. With small, determined steps, I have experienced God's grace to keep walking—though to where I cannot say.

Though I am not yet in springtime, I know with certainty my winter is melting away. My soul's roots are finding what they need in the persistent love and presence of God. Signs of life, however small, are showing. The smallest buds are forming on my branches. I am slowly learning to embrace this temporary season while remembering that, although life is full change, God is always constant.

This simple promise has carried me through some dark days: "This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24, NKJV). I hope that each time I say it, the words and their truth will sink deep into my heart and take root.


Denise is a twenty-something recent graduate who served with InterVarsity in Riverside before moving to San Jose to join Servant Partners. Sexual identity is an area of constant surrender and the place in her life where she has experienced infinite grace and love from the kindest and most faithful of friends. She enjoys art of all forms and is an admirer of beauty. Her sense of humor is a bit childish, but it has often helped with breaking the ice when making new friends. She is an avid coffee drinker and aspiring writer, following Jesus wherever he may lead her.




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Brad Wong Oct 4, 2016 10:45pm

Thanks for sharing your story, Denise. Very moving.