Like a tree maturing with age, new rings forming each year, its stump widening, becoming stronger and more substantial, so is the cyclical nature of life one year after another. Every concentric circle evidence that the tree did more than survive, it grew in the care of its faithful Creator who tends the plants he has made. And it is a miracle!
In the course of a single year, there were winter resting phases where quietness, wondering and waiting marked time. Ornamentation was absent and the true form of the tree fully exposed.
And there was spring. New growth appeared–tender, fresh green leaves, full of hope and promise but battered at times by harsh seasonal storms where the wind howled and blew. The rain and hail pelted against the virgin leaves and yet the tree did not snap. It leaned into the wind and let it pass according to its Creators design. Some foliage was lost, even a few small branches—a pruning of sorts, that removed the weak limbs, the vulnerable places and retained all that is needed, all that strengthens, all that is healthy. The gardener pruned intentionally too, trimming away the extraneous growth that distracts and chokes out nourishment from the most fruitful limbs of the tree.
Later in summer, even through a drought, the tree stood majestic, fully clothed, a shelter from the scorching heat of the sun to all who took refuge under its canopy. Underground, in the deep, dark places no one can see, its roots were constantly searching for nourishing water to sustain it. They grew toward the nutrients that preserve health. When they tapped into that underground spring, life giving liquid travelled uphill from the deepest root through the xylem to the tip-top branch fortifying the entire tree in the process.
And when the days grew shorter and wet, cold air covered the foliage like sparkling diamonds at the break of day, the tree celebrated wildly all that is and has been. Ablaze with color, custom mixed on the artist’s palette, each leaf shouted delightedly, “Glory to God”.
And then, with all its energy spent, its task complete, the leaves began to fall. They released gently, carried by the breeze to the places God set them to cover the ground, to enrich it as they decomposed transferring their nutrients to the soil below. A beautiful process signifying another annum finished, done, complete.
And I reflect on what God says about my life. How He compares me to a tree planted by streams of water, designed for his pleasure and glory to do what trees are designed for in my own little sphere of influence. And I see the parallels. There were times of rest, of wondering, of waiting and storms that threatened to snap me but rather pruned away what was weak and unhealthy. God came along and thinned out other places in my soul as well, skillfully, carefully shaping me according to his design. In the thirsty, parched times, he nourished me from his limitless resources of nutrients– His sprit, His people and His word. And there were those glorious moments that defy explanation and could not have been anticipated where I stood aglow, basking in the delight of his kindness toward me.
2014 is now accessible only through the rearview mirror of reflection and so I am quieted again, like the tree whose form is exposed, whose leaves have been released and are nourishing the ground. And I find myself with two pervading musings:
First, that His mercies have been and will be fresh and new every morning, abundant for each day, evidence of His great faithfulness. As I open my hand to receive them with gratitude, I interrupt worry and anxiety about the future and I don’t dwell inordinately on the past with its mistakes and regrets. I am learning to live under the canopy of His peace that passes understanding.
And secondly, change is in the air. It always is for all of us because we can’t ever predict how God will write His story on our lives in the coming year—the sweet surprises he has in store and the dark, stormy nights that threaten to uproot us except that he stands in the gap as a buffer protecting us from total destruction. And so I wonder….
How will 2015 unfold?
How it will shape?
And I cannot predict, nor can I prescribe. Instead I will live it one day at a time, which in turn becomes another annum every 365 days. And like the tree, I will lean into God’s story being written on the essence of my form, growing strength and substance to my character, stability to my core and confidence that my identity is rooted in His loving kindness. And in that journey, repeated year after year, there is hope.