This is a bit late – so if you live in the south, please humor me and try to remember what all non-evergreen trees looked like just a few short weeks ago. If you live in the north, well, you may not have to imagine anything . . . .
Barren. Gnarled. Ragged. Dark. Have you ever really looked at the trees of winter? Menacing forms. Empty limbs. Misshapen branches. Almost grotesque against the night sky, the dance of the autumn leaves long forgotten.
Once green, shade-laden, beautiful nesting places for birds and playground for squirrels, the trees of winter bear no resemblance to any of those things. Their silent shape only adds to the sad gray of winter skies.
How easy it has been to ignore what soon will become a spectacle of beauty. Never to have noticed what lies beneath the colorful leaves of spring, summer or autumn. In the past weeks though, I found myself staring at them as we drove across the state and as I walked around my neighborhood. It seemed God was nudging me to look at, study, and contemplate the trees of winter.
Some were no more than bent broken forms. Some dense with small crooked branches. Some a few bare limbs protruding at odd angles from the main trunk. Yet others had straight trunks and strong inner branches lending perfect shape and symmetry to their outward limbs. A myriad of smaller, smaller and yet smaller branches seemed to float outward forming a sustenance-carrying network of limbs. A network found in all trees, no matter their shape or symmetry.
An unseen network at work within as they withstood the storms, high winds, rain, snow and ice. Winter after winter, the trees hold on and live by the design of their Creator. Limbs stay strong with the promise of spring hidden deep within their bark. Trees stand tall, anchored by amazing ever-expanding root systems.
From its roots to the trunk to its branches and twigs to buds to flowers to leaves, a tree carries out its life cycle, its purpose. Rooted in nourishment and stability found far beneath the earth’s surface, in winter it waits . . . secure in the ever present hope of spring. And when we take the time to look, we can see a certain beauty in those strong, gnarled, barren shapes.
Beauty all their own. Strength. Tenacity. These trees of winter are survivors, withstanding the deep chill of winter. Waiting for the transformation of springtime. They overwhelmingly conqueror as the writer of Romans 8:37 says about believers in the midst of trials and tribulation.
Over simplistic to say trees mirror the seasons of our lives? I don’t think so. They provide a powerful picture of God’s enduring love and mercy. God’s provision for life, even in the midst of winter.
God does provide for our lives as we bloom and flourish in the springtime. Endure during the relentless summer. Wane, though beautifully, in autumn. But even when barren and broken in winter, God is still there, providing strength and endurance. Enhancing life and beauty even in the grayness of life. For deep within us runs God’s river of grace and sustenance that one day will bring our souls back to life again.
Some of you may have entered the winter of life. Some may find it fast approaching. Others may have been forced into it way too early as disease assaults, tragedy strikes, bodies fail, or evil abounds
But take heart, just as dark trees of winter give way to the beauty of spring, spiritual spring will come to those whose faith rests in Jesus, our Redeemer. Whose lives are rooted in the living God of hope. Who hope for the spring that may come in this life, in this world, or certainly will come in eternity.
I am praying that you, dear reader, will not be destroyed by that which you face. That you will not feel dead to life and all joy while you yet live. That you will remain rooted in the promises of spring written throughout the Scriptures. That you will be encouraged to rejoice in the One who is always near, abiding within you in all seasons of life.
That the chaos of life and the noise of pain will never dim the song of God’s love and the nearness of God’s presence. That as the trees of winter’s silent branches dance, their barren ragged forms swaying to the rhythm of the wind as they wait for the spring that always comes – you will find yourself swaying to the rhythms of God’s grace and finding your way back into the music of life.
And as you wait in hope for the eternal spring that will come, may your spirit dance its way into God’s arms, on all the days of your winter.
Oh, I do want to dance among the trees of winter . . . .