Have you ever had one of those mornings when you awaken and instantly begin to think about your life and those things you desire? Many people today call it their “bucket list.” I simply call it, desires or things I would like to do. This morning was one of those rare mornings when all was still. I took advantage of the quiet. It was as if I were watching a play back of a video of my life: work, play, friends, hobbies, exercise, and I must admit the more I saw, the more I had regrets. My head was spinning and my heart disappointed.
I grabbed a second cup of coffee to sit with God and hear His thoughts. I have come to know that when those things happen, either it is the enemy trying to get me out of step with truth or God is revealing something important. The former rooted in accusations and fear, the latter freedom and peace. I was still not awake to know the difference.
I went into my office and sat in my oversized rocker/glider looking out the window. My eyes looked across the yard toward a mighty oak tree, its 100-year-old limbs stretched toward the sun. Next to its grandeur, I spotted a tinier oak. In that moment I was not sure why I kept staring but I did. It was as if I were waiting for the oaks to come alive as in a Disney movie. But this morning I was not figuring out, I just went with it.
Within a few moments my spirit became impressed with thoughts, “Look at the mighty oak tree. Look at the little one next to it. What is different? Does it have something the other does not have? NO! A baby oak tree has everything that the mature oak has. In fact, from its tiny seed, the oak tree rises up and becomes what you see. The only difference is that the mighty oak tree has had time: time in the sun, time in the rain, time living through seasons. They are all important.”
I sat for a few more minutes thinking about my life in comparison to the seasons of an oak tree. I had certainly had time, not a 100 years, but time. I too had lived out many seasons: winters some more harsh and cold and blustery than others. Some of my springs had been birthing new dreams, new jobs, new friends… new! Others had been times of house cleaning, getting rid of things that no longer had priority spots in my life. Fall, there were those where I fell forward and many times backward and some of my summers were nothing but rain and others were hot and dry and others simply a drought.
I smiled as I thought back of some of the crazy aspects of my life which really could be explained as weather: tornadoes, hurricanes, gusty winds, rain, sunshine and even smoggy days when my eyes had no clarity or direction. I remember a pastor once said about reading the Bible to “find yourself in the story.” That has always been helpful. So I did: Where am I in the story that nature tells? I certainly have had “time” under my belt, enduring storms, rain, drought, cold, wind, heat. I was still. I tried not to run with the thoughts, but just remain quiet.
Like the oak tree in my backyard, God does not give man a blade of grass or a tree in full growth, but starts from the seeds from which they are to spring after their kind. Mark 4 says, “For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” These verses all speak to the process of something growing.
I am sorry but the thought of growing was not necessarily encouraging this morning. I seem to think of growing as painful and challenging and sometimes I just want something easy. I thought about winter. This year in Atlanta we have had some cold punches, but nothing like last year. In fact jonquils are pushing through the pine straw surrounding my pine trees on the side of my front yard. But what typically happens in winter with nature? The season of winter is the time you see nothing with your eyes, but it is the time of the greatest work in nature.
I listened to that quiet still voice, “I am doing something internally that breaks forth in spring. Spring is the time you think everything is happening because it is the season in which your eyes see results.”
That is certainly true. I judge things by results of what I see, and results never precede process. Many things in nature happen in “secret”. A baby is formed in secret in a mother’s womb. A tree’s greatest growth is in the stage of dormancy and even a diamond is created in darkness. My passions of gardening and photography had led me to study trees. I grabbed my iPad on the table to pull up a bookmark of something I had researched a few months earlier. Even a few months ago I had no understanding as to why I was so interested in this apparent meaningless study of winter and dormancy. But God!!!
The research stated that through the season of dormancy, trees appear to have stopped growing but actually are growing the most. To those of us who are looking externally, it appears as if nothing is happening. Skilled arborists prefer and often insist on pruning trees when dormant. Why? With no leaves on the tree, they are better able to evaluate its architecture and spot dead or diseased branches. In fact dormancy is also called the resting period for trees, plants, flowers and even some animals. Trees must undergo a period of rest or dormancy, a period without any externally observable growth activity for about 3 – 5 months depending on the variety. This is a pre-condition required for the successful flowering. Though the term dormancy or rest is used to explain this stage of growth, plants are not actually in a dormant stage and are very active. So the trees are resting yet growing!!!
I closed my iPad pondering my life. Everything seems quiet or dormant. No movement. Every time I think I am gaining momentum, another roadblock, another delay or stall. Could I be experiencing one of those dormant periods while a deeper internal work was being wrought? And even though my outside world seems barren and unfruitful, that indeed in this season I am progressing growing the most? I Corinthians 15:46 says, “The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.” New International Version (NIV)
The word, pruning jumped out. Oh I hate that word. How many times do I need pruning? How many times do my branches need clipping to their core?
A tree is best pruned in winter in order to better identify disease and evaluate its structure. John 15:1 says “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. NIV… That means He does the pruning – work. What is my role?
If in nature the tree rests yet it is when the greatest growth takes place, then I have to believe that while I rest, God works! Philippians 2:13 says: “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” (Holman Christian Standard Bible) God is working. My role is, I let Him!
Did you ever think about why the season is named spring? Perhaps, because the internal growth can no longer contain itself and it must spring outwardly forth. According to nature, this time of rest or dormancy is the prerequisite for successful flowering. I sat there smiling thinking about how nature preaches. In fact some of the best sermons have been watching nature, listening and looking up scripture to support the thoughts. So our seasons of life that feel like dormancy, could be our greatest seasons of growth. And when our Spring time comes, we are prepared and able to produce successful flowering.
Again I looked toward the oak trees. “Rita, look at the oak trees in all of their grandeur and beauty. Look at those leaves upon the branches. Are those leaves holding on to dear life fearing if they do not hold on, they will fall to the ground and stepped on by someone passing by? No! Be like the oak leaves, which are resting in their position. They do not fear falling. Their Creator affixed them to the branch where life flows through them holding them in the right place.”
There were no more words. There was no need for any. My spirit had been uplifted with truth. The branches were not working at holding on to the tree fearing that they would fall. How silly. The branch was securely affixed and so was I. I had everything I needed to grow. The oak tree did not work its growth, it just rested in the process of nature ordered by God when He spoke the world into being. Likewise I too could rest and trust His process in my life allowing Him to do the work in me, through me and for me.
This is a season when my outside world appears silent, but truth is God may appear silent, but He is never absent. He is working His plan inside my life preparing me for what He has always had in mind for me. You too might be in a season of silence, not understanding, but God is always working, always preparing, cultivating our hearts, establishing us in Him so at the perfect and appointed time, our lives, as spring, will burst out in the fullness: blossoms, flowers, shape, fragrance, texture and beauty.
So if things feel or appear silent… Rejoice. You are in a tremendous season of growth. If you have no clue which way to turn. Stop. Rest. He will give you an idea or thought. And don’t be surprised if the thought is “shhh”. He wants to work and desires you to rest in His love.
What season are you in? Do you understand its purpose? How are you responding? What new choices might you make today?