I love trees and I love autumn.
The autumn tree is a glorious vision, with its rich colors and striking beauty. Indeed, don’t we travel for miles to enjoy the spectacular view of an autumn landscape?
After a season of rich green, the autumn tree bursts forth in glorious color, and shows a different face of beauty. As temperatures cool, the leaves transform into striking hues which glow in the sun. But we have to catch the show at the right time. The window is short. A week too late, and the leaves could be gone, fallen to the ground in a dusty heap.
Trees in summer remind me of youth– lush, lively, perky. Trees of autumn remind me of older ones who show off their wisdom and knowledge through their changing colors, like crowning acts of their lives. If autumn is the show, summer is the dress rehearsal. But then the glory of the autumn tree dies all too soon, and its colors fade and its leaves drop dead to the ground.
Yet the tree has not died.
In the wake of approaching bitter winter winds, ice, and blanketing snow, the tree shows off its glory, relinquishes its glimmering coat… and then the snows fall.
I wonder… why do the leaves keep such glorious color for only a short time? Why do the trees lose their magnificent crown, drop their jewels, just before the onslaught of bitter and brutal cold? Why then, just before winter? Isn’t this when they need their beautiful wrap of red, gold or yellow the most? And isn’t winter when I long to see color the most, too- during the long dark months when I only see white, gray or brown?
After some seasons spent under the branches, I hear the answer of the Tree Maker, whispering to my soul:
“The trees willingly give up their beauty, their protective coats, and accept the storm that is coming. They stand ready to face the cold and lonely winter. Did you notice that their glory shines brightest before succumbing to death?
They shine, and then give up themselves to me, surrender their leaves– and only a skeleton remains for the long winter season. Do you notice how their branches lift up to me, like hands in praise? The snows fall, but then in spring, they are born again with new life!”
As I ponder this further, the Tree Maker teaches me the following:
Lesson One: When I give back to God something I’m holding onto, there is a beauty to that letting go. When I die to myself, there is a beauty in that death. God’s glory will shine during that season. The autumn leaves that glow, and then die, exemplify the beauty of letting go.
Lesson Two: There are cycles and seasons in life. The tree reminds me that spring will come after winter, as trite as that sounds. The trees do not die in the winter; they let go of their coat, and God protects them during that long harsh season. After some years, the trees grow into magnificent living beauties. Surviving the winter is part of the process, and a part of the environment they must live with where they are planted. During one season they bear fruit, in another season, the seeds fall and lie dormant in the ground, but the seeds do not die in the winter, either. If I am facing a winter, He is planting and planning new growth in my life; cultivating the growth of my spirit. Winter is but a season, not a lifelong forecast.
Lesson Three: In the whirlwind of life, the tree is firmly planted. It may sway in the wind, but it will not come out of the ground. Its roots are firmly established. The peace, the place of rest, amidst seasons, the bitter winter, and the whirlwind of life, is found in God: “Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” Psalm 116:7. As time goes on, and I live through more cycles of winter and thaw, cold and heat, calm and wind, I can remind myself that abiding with Him makes for deeper roots.
Quite a lesson from the Tree Maker.
And thankful for what He teaches me, through His beautiful creation of trees, and through my favorite season.
Are you sensing that you need to surrender something in your life? How can “holding on” deter spiritual growth? What other lessons of the season might the Tree Maker be teaching you?