Drop Your Leaves
I had the pleasure yesterday of driving through Georgia, and I was blessed to witness ‘fall colors’ once again. Living in Florida for the past five years, I had forgotten what trees look like in the fall. Here in Florida the saying is, “Fall has arrived, the colors are changing on the license plates!” I miss the fall weather and beauty, so yesterday was a joy for me. Then I thought, maybe WE should be the ones dropping our leaves every year.
When trees drop their leaves in the fall, we know winter is coming. It is a way for the trees to enter a dormant phase so they can survive the winter. They harden off the tips and ‘hope for the best’ during the winter months. Eons have trained the trees that if they keep putting out fresh leaves in the winter, the weight of the snow and the cold winter winds will damage their branches. Maybe we should consider something similar.
Think about it for a minute. One of the stressors in our spiritual life, and in secular life as well, is caused by holding on to tightly to our past. Whether it is successes or failures, there comes a time when we must let go and prepare for a new season in life. The new season could be a new job, a new family if we are getting married, or any number of life transitions.
A tree doesn’t forget the past. In fact, when leaves fall, the branches harden off and leave set buds for the future. These buds become new branches, but when you study the branches further you will see years worthy of growth rings. The growth rings reveal good seasons and bad seasons. They even reveal environmental conditions like volcanic eruptions etc. The key is, they tree moves one with the memory of the past but hope for the future. It could never do with unless is dropped its leaves.
Our ‘leaves’ are our experiences in the present circumstances, our successes and failures. If we experience abundant emotional growth, there are more leaves, just as if our struggles produce fewer leaves. Nonetheless, there comes a time that true growth requires that we let go of the past and prepare for the future. How you might ask? I’m glad you asked!
The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit has established seasons of feasting and fasting, like spring and fall. When we feast, our life grows with abundance and we produce many leaves. When we fast, our leaves begin to drop and we prepare for struggle. Next week, the Church enters a fasting period for us to drop our leaves (our sins) through increased prayer, increased fasting, increased Church attendance, and Holy Confession.
If we hold on to our leaves (our sins) we won’t be able to endure the next struggle and we could be damaged. Imagine what happens to trees in a late spring snowstorm after the leaves have emerged. Branches break and even some trees split and die. The same is true with our sins. If we hold on to our sins eventually, we will break under the pressure and added weight of life.
You will never forget the impact any life experience has had on you, good or bad. You will one day, and call already today, look back and understand your ‘growth rings’ of where you struggled more one year in your spiritual journey than other years. By God’s grace you have learned from each experience how to be stronger in your faith. Nonetheless, you have gotten this far, and no matter how many struggles or bad seasons you have had, you made it through. Be Thankful to God.
Now….go drop your leaves and get ready for the next season. Call your spiritual father to schedule a confession during the coming Nativity Fast so you can ‘harden off your branches’ and move on to the next season of life.