Trees with no leaves

Three seasons of the year we focus on foliage. Leaves are our focus as we find comfort in the evidence of new life, seek their shade, and are awed by their brilliant color in autumn. But I love the winter when the leaves fall and we get to see the tree itself. God wove this into nature’s plan. With no leaves there is more sunlight to warm the earth below when the temperatures are colder. Less foliage prevents the tree from losing branches with the additional weight of snow and ice.

This is a time of rest for the tree; it doesn’t produce leaves or flowers or fruit, just rest for a season. There are similarities in the shapes of the trees, but none match. Trunks can be huge and round, or can split into two or three as they rise above the ground level. Limbs vary as well. Some trees have strong limbs near the ground providing support for upper branches. Some are gracefully curved; others are angular as they seek sunlight. Some sprout new branches immediately as they grow away from the trunk. Others travel a ways before they sprout a new a new branch.

The silhouette of trees against the winter sky shows evidence of nests of all kinds, both used and abandoned. Knot holes and scars of past lightening strikes are evident once the foliage is gone. Sometimes there are leaves that refuse to fall, clinging to their branch long after others are gone. But all trees, not matter the size and shape of their trunk, end in twigs that create natural lace against the winter sky. Some twigs end with the bud of the promise of spring; others simply rest.

The pattern of these delicate twigs mimics the pattern of river beds or arterial maps of blood flow, but no two ever match. The pattern of the oak is as different from the pattern of a Gingko or a Maple as the map of the Nile is from the map of the Amazon or the Mississippi. God created similarities in nature, but he makes all things unique.

We are like trees, and sometimes the “winter” seasons of our lives highlight all we have in common and all that makes each one of us unique. The depth of our roots determines our ability to withstand adverse conditions. Adversity strips away the image we create for the world, and our core convictions become evident. The scars of our past may to show in our behavior. Sometimes our life travels a straight path toward our goal; sometimes it is gnarled and twisted around times of failure and pain. We grow around scars we will always wear, but did not allow to destroy us. Humans look basically similar, but no two of us match. Even identical twins are distinct to those that love them. Our lives and personalities are as unique as the power of our “trunks” or the delicate “twigs” that are usually hidden from view.

The cycle of life requires rest and time for us to see past the fluff and flash and tasks of our life. I am now in a season when I don’t see my immediate task. I feel like I’m supposed to be bearing fruit, but God is telling me to be still. The rest of the winter gives energy for the bloom of spring. My obedience to rest will determine my ability to bear fruit when God determines that this season is over.