I took a walk today. And I took my camera along – just in case. I came upon a park close to our home – my favorite trees line the street. I can always tell what season we are in when looking at those trees.
A little red leaf trickled down from a branch and on the sidewalk in front of me while I was walking by – and I thought to myself, ‘what a journey you have taken, my friend’. Yet – undaunted – it fell to the ground. That was his job – he had begun, sprouted, blossomed – turned a beautiful color and then broke loose and died. No disguises – no hiding. A leaf is just a leaf.
Are we like trees? Can people tell by looking at us – what season we are in? Can they tell who we are? Do we show it on our faces – our posture – is it evident in the sound of our voice – do we give ourselves away? Have we sprouted? Blossomed? Turned a beautiful color that is evident to all those around us? Or do we hide – like some well seasoned actor with lines to learn – and a disguise that suits us?
William Shakespeare once wrote these words in his play, “As you like it”:
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” — Jaques (Act II, Scene VII, lines 139-166)
Are we well rehearsed? Do we ever give our true selves away? Are we merely great actors – destined to hide behind a mask – or the internet so that no one really knows us – or confronts us? Or are we willing to let people in – and really see us?
Are we graceful and strong down to our roots – even in the ‘fall’ and ‘winter’ of our lives. Are we unmoved by changes that come and go? Are we most beautiful when we have gone through much pain and endurance – as we surrender to the ‘winter’? I believe that much beauty is produced in our lives during those tough times – when we have been stripped bare of any pride – when the ‘real us’ emerges. I myself have struggled in this area – resisting with everything in me. Wanting to run and hide when hurt comes and threatens to swallow me – wanting to ‘fake it’ and paint on a sunny smile – hoping to fool those around me. But I also believe spring always comes – I believe that God allows me to go through seasons – I believe that He protects me down to my roots – shaping me and giving life from the inside out. Even when it is most uncomfortable and inconvenient.
Psalms 1 says this:
1 Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
What kind of tree are you? One that will blow away with the wind – not deep enough to withstand pain, hurt, stress, disappointment and failure? Or are you one who is deeply rooted – clinging to life and embracing the different seasons as an opportunity for growth and depth? I pray you are the later – and that you will find your strength and courage in God to lead your through and bring the beauty out in your life today.