Of all men, I am most blessed. I have a beautiful wife whose heart is deep. I have wonderful young children who are beginning to find their own character and sense of self. And I have a God who loves me. A part of this profound blessing I feel is the great privilege to live across the road from a Forest Preserve. There is not a day that goes by that I fail to look over at God's amazing creation there--and, at times, enjoy the advantage of taking time there. Usually, my family and I will walk in the Preserve. Sometimes we'll bike it. And there are a handful of moments when I make my way there alone. Today was one of those occasions.
As I sat reading a good book in a grove of trees, I chanced upon an interesting convergence. There, in that grove of quietly invincible oaks, my eyes discovered that the tallest tree was also the most beautiful. It occurred to me that many eyes and many legs must have looked at and walked past that old tree. I wondered how many had noticed its amazing color at this time of year. (As I am fashioning these thoughts in the middle of a Midwest October, it won't take you long to ascertain why its beauty right now exceeds even its loveliest green when spring and summer shake hands in their passing of one another.)
Now, in my color-blindness, I am attuned to my limitations at being able to certify the color I perceived it to be, but I'll still stab at it. Taken as a whole, I'd have to say that the tree's leaves were the most attractive shade of amber, but that's not to say that I failed to see the hues of gorgeous orange and scarlet highlights. From top to bottom, this old oak was mesmerizing. Awe-striking, really.
And it's just as I had taken the whole tree in that a deep truth occurred to me. What is it about me that is most drawn to this tree NOW--as the season brings something about it to an end. Shouldn't a sensible person most admire it when it is at its greenest--when it is its most ALIVE? And while meditating on this last thought, I stopped to reconsider why I had not taken note of the tree during any one of the hundred other times I had been there.You see, it wasn't until I saw its color that I would end up taking notice of its character. From the same vantage-point of where I sat in October, the same tree exists as only one among about a million in June. While I could have probably seen that it reached further into the heavens than the rest, it's just that at its greenest the oak doesn't STAND OUT, it just stands up. Yes, it's when something in it is dying that I begin to realize how alive it is.
While I am no arborist, I would bet my neighbor's last paycheck that that tree has stood in that spot for 80-100 years. Slowly but certainly, it has grown into the patriarch of all the trees around it. But in order for it to be the wisest and strongest of those trees, it has had to abide and persist through many dozens of deaths. It has had to steadily give up a part of itself. The turning of those beautiful amber leaves were a striking display in nature of a God principle. The principle of turning. Jesus once said to those who might want to follow Him: “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must TURN from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it" (Matthew 16:24-25--nlt). Turning displays life more than any human action or event. While it certainly is emblematic of the release of the past; more than that, it is only by giving up the things we have had hanging about us or on us for too long(even if we consider them beautiful) that we can make space for new life.Some of you are at an amber point in your life. And while it may be difficult to freely release what you've known for a while, know that WE ARE OUR MOST BEAUTIFUL WHEN WE ARE MAKING SPACE FOR GOD'S NEW LIFE. It is then that we are most alive and most striking. Then--and only then--will we know that we have turned. Our amber will display our color and our character.