Monday Meditation: The Tree and the Invitation to Remain

Monday Meditation: The Tree and the Invitation to Remain

Two weeks ago, I shared that my word for the year is remain and that it arose out of Jesus’ metaphor of the branch and the vine. Last week I shared that one of those breadcrumbs is the image of a buoy.  This week, I’d like to share another breadcrumb: the image of a tree, deeply rooted in rich soil.

The Tree

One of my favorite prayers in the Bible is the prayer Paul prays for the Ephesians.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:17-19

I love the image of being rooted and established in God’s all surpassing love.  What a truly freeing and sustaining foundation for our daily lives!

I wrote recently about my fascination with trees and how watching them as they lose their leaves reminds me that letting go is a necessary and natural part of life:

The roots grow down and down, far below the surface, deep into darkness where all that has fallen away and died has seeped in and enriched the soil to feed the tree.

Where the roots are planted determines what nutrition the tree takes in.  A tree planted by water looks very different from a tree planted in the desert. Consider how different the evergreen is from the maple, the willow from the joshua.  The soil influences the health of their branches, leaves, and flowers or fruit.  In fact, the quality and makeup of the soil even helps determine what kind of tree is capable of surviving in it.

Trees are inspiringly resilient.  They survive for decades and even centuries despite drought, fire, storms, and human encroachment.  Although they may twist and bend with the wind, lose leaves and branches along the way, and bear the battle scars of natural disasters, they survive and even thrive because of their roots.  Their roots are strong and deeply embedded in the rich soil–a soil enriched by the natural disasters they manage to escape.  On the surface things may look tenuous, but underneath the tree is firmly anchored and grounded.

The Invitation to Remain

And so, my fellow pilgrims, I continue to pray that we would all have the strength of heart and the gentle attention necessary to remain in God’s love no matter what obstacles we encounter on our journey homeward.

As we walk this way together awhile, I’m curious: what grounds you, roots you, and nourishes you from the bottom up? In what are you being invited to remain?

Monday Meditation: A meditation on trees, for Advent

Monday Meditation: A meditation on trees, for Advent

Autumn has come late this year.  We are nearly to the last month of the year, and the vibrant reds and yellows are only now emerging in our little corner of the mid-west.  Many trees have lost most or all of their leaves with no more than a muted tribute to this season I love the most.

It’s ironic how much I love this season, nicknamed fall, given my generally vice-like grip on the things that it is time to let go of.  I wish I could enjoy all the colors of the changing leaves without ever having to grieve their dying and watch them drop curled and dry and grey-brown like the hard, cold ground they cover.

This metaphor of the tree is a dear recurring companion on my spiritual journey.  I’ve written about it before.  In a recent prayer time, this phrase caught my unsuspecting attention:

Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. – Ephesians 3:17, NLT

I began to think about this season of letting go, of releasing those elements once so vital to nourishment and growth that have since served their purpose and become unnecessary as the environment slowly changes.

Trees: A Metaphor

Losing the leaves–like all times of transition–can be an uncomfortable time of vulnerability and exposure.  As the leaves drop, the branches once hidden are suddenly revealed.  The tree does not release all the leaves at once; each leaf has its time, yet they all eventually fall away.  Sometimes a strong wind hurries the process along sooner than expected, loosening the last tender connection in a shocking motion.  Other times the leaves remain dying on the branch too long, drooping and drab alongside the bright colors and stark branches of other trees.

A tree that has let go of all its dying leaves may feel naked and bare, but it has a remarkable beauty all its own.  All the knotted, wobbly, twisted branches are revealed entirely as they are–as they have been created to be.  We see the tree’s true shape and form, standing tall, reaching out and up, braving the harshest conditions with resolute stillness.  The branches have nothing to hide or protect them for a time, but this season of rest and preparation is necessary for new growth to be possible again.

Even when the leaves change and fall to the ground, even when the branches are exposed to all the elements, even when the ground itself freezes all around the tree–the roots remain, sustaining the tree with unchangeable consistency through seasons and storms and fires and decades and even centuries.  The roots grow down and down, far below the surface, deep into darkness where all that has fallen away and died has seeped in and enriched the soil to feed the tree.

Death Enriches the Soil

I began to think about all the parts of myself that have died to bring more life.  All my unpleasant experiences and wounded places and discarded, outgrown understandings of God and myself–each sacrificial, necessary, inevitable death only enriches the soil of God’s love in which I am deeply rooted and out of which I grow and change and become.

I am a tree, rooted and established in the rich soil of God’s love, and I am strong.

So, my fellow pilgrims, what are you being invited to let go of in this season of change? What new growth might you be invited to anticipate in the darkness and waiting of this Advent season?