Have you ever read something and it clicked? It made sense and your spirit felt a sense of comfort and relief that the words on your heart are on paper as well. This passage from Alicia Britt Chole's book anonymous did just that for me. So if you want a glimpse into my thoughts and heart here you go.
A century ago, a few fragile seeds fell upon rocky soil. Through drought and flood, they clung tightly to earth, stubbornly stretching toward the heavens. Today, silver maple, post oak, and black walnut trees surround our home like tall, loyal sentinels. Their intricate, mingled root systems support the ground below. Their long, angular boughs weave a canopy above. Before I was, they were. My elders by many decades, their presence is steadying.
In the heat, I rest under the covering of their rich foliage. Bursting with shades of green, the leaves dance in the breeze. Winter's reduction is coming, but that does not halt the dance. Trees celebrate the moment, temporary though it is. In the spring, their new growth sings of hope. Their lush greenery offers peace in the summer. In the fall, their colorful collages inspire creativity. And in their emptiness, tress grace the winter with silent elegance.
Though my skin prefers their role in summer, somehow my soul prefers their lessons in winter. Then, when growth pauses, the trees have often become my teachers.
What the plenty of summer hides, the nakedness of winter reveals: infrastructure. Fullness often distracts from foundations. But in the stillness of winter, the trees' true strength is unveiled. Stripped of decoration, the tree trunks become prominent.
As a child I always colored tree trunks brown, but to my adult eyes they appear to be more of a warm gray. Starting with their thick bases, I begin studying each tree. Buckling strips of bark clothe mile after mile of weathered branches. Leafless, the trees feature their intricate support systems. Detail is visible, as is dead wood. Lifeless limbs concealed by summer's boasting are now exposed.
My eyes glide from one rough, uneven bough to another and then to the terminal, delicate twigs. A tree's posture is all-open, like arms ready for an embrace. So very vulnerable, yet so very strong. I find the display quieting and full of grace.
In winter, are the trees bare? Yes.
In winter, are the trees barren? No.
Life still is.
Life does not sleep - though in winter she retracts all advertisement. And when she does so, she is conserving and preparing for the future.
And so it is with us. Seasonally, we too are stripped of visible fruit. Our giftings are hidden; our abilities are underestimated. When previous successes fade and current efforts falter, we can easily mistake our fruitlessness for failure.
But such is the rhythm of spiritual life: new growth, fruitfulness, transition, rest...new growth, fruitfulness, transition, rest. Abundance may make us feel more productive, but perhaps emptiness has greater power to strengthen our souls.
In spiritual winter, our fullness is thinned so hat, undistracted by our giftings, we can focus upon our character. In the absence of anything to measure, we are left with nothing to stare at except for our foundation.
Risking inspection, we begin to examine the motivations that support our deeds, the attitudes that influence our words, the dead wood otherwise hidden beneath our busyness. Then a life changing transition occurs as we move from resistance through repentance to the place of rest. With gratitude, we simply abide. Like a tree planted by living water, we focus upon our primary responsibility: remaining in him.
In winter are we bare? Yes.
In winter are we barren? No.
True life still is.
The Father's work in us does not sleep - though in spiritual winters he retracts all advertisement. And when he does so, he is purifying our faith, strengthening our character, conserving our energy, and preparing us for the future.
The sleepy days of winter hide us so that seductive days of summer will not ruin us.
(just a silly picture I found in photobooth)