I love trees. Oak, apple, willow, maple, elm, they all have a beauty that fills our world with texture, shade, and life. There is something about the majesty of the tall trunks and branches everywhere that moves my heart. The wind in the leaves, the snow on the branches, or the full bloom of apple blossoms all bring a sense of being and wonder at the world God created. As I look at seasons, I can only think of trees. Trees, in Michigan, change with seasons. They reflect the world around them yet they continue to stand uniquely in their own spot whether in the bare branches of winter, the buds of spring, the full foliage of summer or the elaborate colors of fall. Trees pull their life from the roots and ground, they spread their branches to the light and are covered in the rough bark that protects the life within.
In the fall, the wind pushes through the trees making branches sway and leaves fall. The orange and red colors float to the ground as other leaves hold on tight not quite ready to let go. Yet, even though the leaves will all eventually fall, the tree remains. It’s trunk reaching upward while the branches stretch and tangle with others. We know why trees sway but don’t fall easily – it’s their roots. The unseen arms that reach down into the earth and create the foundation the tree stands on. And even though the leaves die off, the trunk holds onto life for a future season of growth and green.
You can probably already feel the analogy here – we are so like trees with our seasons and need for strong roots. We feel the bareness of winter and the full bloom of spring. Our bark can show the signs of life and carry a few scars. Yet, we stand reflecting the season we’re in as we look to the next one wondering how long it will last. Change is our wind. It makes us sway and loose leaves at times. We sway with conflict or transitions, we let some relationships fall while others seem to hold tighter. The key to sustaining life through seasons is our roots. The unseen arms that reach deep within to the places where faith and trust dwell. And even when it seems all our leaves have fallen, the roots give life to our core that promises a future of life, growth, and even smiles.
As temperatures drop, our world looks different, we feel like we’ve lost something, and yet we cling onto the leaves we have for as long as we can. That’s change. We’ve all experienced change and if you’ve lived life for any amount of time, you’ve learned one thing is certain, change will always come. We can handle, even like, the change we see coming, mostly because we’re prepared for it. It’s the unexpected change that often turns our worlds upside down. It’s a move from what you felt was ‘normal’ to something that’s, well, not.
In the summer of 2007, God gave me these simple words.
Love them well.
Help them to love themselves.
Empower them to love others.
It’s the great commandment – yet it’s my call. I’ve always felt driven to love well, and when it comes to kids/students – I feel driven to help them see the loveable selves God made them to be. We all need help in this. I found, as many do, that when we empower students/adults to love others – they in turn learn to love themselves and discover purpose and meaning. It’s all tied together.
Yet, in each season of life and ministry, these simple mandates can become so hard. In each season; seasons of change, burnout, growth, and firehose busyness, I’ve discovered that these words ring out loud and clear. Jesus was pretty smart – actually genius right?
Take a breath and remember that although change can be harsh and unexpected it can also be beautiful. Think of Spring and the beauty of new growth, think of Summer and sunsets. Whatever changes you’re going through, I can’t say everything will be fine, but I can say that God is good and He is at work.