After I graduated from university I enrolled in a divinity school near Boston to learn more about my new faith. A year into my studies John and I married and I transferred to his school near Chicago where we lived on the top-floor of a small house while we both completed our degrees. One night I woke up with a picture in my head and felt compelled to go to my desk and draw the image. It was of a tree planted by a stream, protected by a rainbow, and warmed by the sun. The sheltering boundary around the tree was open so the stream could flow out into the world. It was a pleasing image, but I couldn’t place a location or decipher a metaphoric meaning.
Meanwhile, John and I were part of a student group called the People’s Christian Coalition seeking to integrate faith with the events happening in the world. The PCC published a newspaper, The Post-American, which circulated through colleges and seminaries and called Christians to deepen their commitment to biblical values in the face of American hypocrisy. We met together for worship and had late-into-the-night discussions of how to be an authentic New Testament church.
As part of his conversion experience, John had been influenced by Nazi-resistance author Dietrich Bonhoeffer, especially Letters and Papers from Prison and Life Together. John shared Bonhoeffer’s vision of Christian community with the PCC. In 1974, as graduation approached, John and I and two other couples moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to put our ideals into practice. We settled near the river that formed the border between Michigan and Wisconsin and called ourselves the Menominee River Fellowship. I realized my middle-of-the-night drawing was a prophetic expression of what we were hoping to become. As Psalm 1 proclaims, God blesses people who meditate day and night on his Word so they become fruitful trees planted by streams of living water. The rainbow represents God’s promise and protection. The sun is the light of Christ shining within the safe confines of the community, while the community remains open to the world, sending living water to all who are thirsty.
Ten years and three children later we left the community amidst sadness and strife. I woke again in the middle of the night with a comforting image extended from my first drawing: I saw myself as a piece of fruit that had ripened on the tree, fallen into the mouth of the river, and been carried out into the world. Even though change and transformation are painful, they are healthy and good.