My God-Weaved Story this week:
The image you see in the photograph is of a branch that fell this week from one of my most favorite trees. This tree, a mimosa, stands tall and proud in my front yard, directly in front of the window I sit at each day when I drink my morning coffee, read my Bible, write, eat, gather with my family, so many things I do with that tree in view. In the fall, its limbs are mostly covered with leaves, which then in winter shed, leaving the limbs more barren, and in the spring, it develops a full canopy of pink powderpuff blooms. I love it at every season. When it appeared in my first novel, my son said to me after reading the book, “That tree you described is the one in our front yard, isn’t it?” Yep, it sure is. He knows the tree as well, and likely knows how much I love it.
So, the other day, when I heard a loud crackling sound, a thump on the roof and then saw a large limb of the tree fall before the window in front of me, it really had my attention. Yes, as a writer and former English teacher, I do tend to look for symbolism in almost everything, and of course, as I’m spending this week focusing on where I see God, I couldn’t help but connect this limb falling to a God spotting moment. And the more I contemplated it, the more I “saw.”
One of the first things I noticed was the fact that this limb falling didn’t occur on the previous day that was rainy and stormy, when I would have been less surprised at a falling branch, and it didn’t happen on the day after, when it was very dry and windy. It occurred right in between those two days when the weather was near perfect – a clear, calm, seventy something degrees. It also occurred within an hour after having the window in front of it replaced due to a crack from a rock that flew into it when my husband was mowing the lawn. So, the fact that it fell without anyone standing under it, on a beautifully peaceful day reminded me of the little surprises and obstacles that sometimes land in our lives while God faithfully maneuvers to protect and help us.
Since I was curious why this limb had fallen, concerned something was wrong with my beloved tree, I did what can be either smart or misleading, and Googled why limbs fall off trees. What I discovered was something I’d never heard of - sudden branch drop syndrome. According to arboristnow.com, this is an issue that typically occurs during the summer and affects completely healthy trees. Essentially, it's when trees suddenly lose their branches during the warmer months of the year, and has nothing to do with wind or storms. It happens on calm days, and experts aren’t exactly clear on the cause. One theory noted that sudden branch drop is the tree's response to a hot, dry environment where transpiration needs exceed vascular capabilities. When it gets too hot to keep all tissue properly circulated, the tree responds with auto-amputation, letting go of a limb. In my non-science terms, it gets rid of what keeps it from living.
The thought of a tree letting go of a limb in order to thrive really got me thinking. In this week’s readings, among the many things that stood out to me was the idea of the need to let go of certain things in order to “see” God. Maybe that’s why the tree losing its limb seemed so significant. It came during a time when I was contemplating what I needed to let go of based upon what I’d noticed in God’s word.
For example, in Mark 10:46-52, blind Bartimaeus, after asking for mercy from Jesus and being summoned by him, threw aside his coat, jumped up, and went to Jesus. The fact that he threw aside his coat before Jesus healed him showed his faith. He knew he wouldn’t need that coat, which was a common mark of a beggar at the time, because he knew Jesus was going to heal him and change him. Clearly Jesus knew how deep his faith was because he said, “Go, for your faith has healed you,” and instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road. Bartimaeus threw aside his old life and moved forward to follow the Jesus who knew him, payed attention to him, loved him, and healed him because of his faith.
So, I ask myself, what do I need to throw aside in order to more clearly see and follow Jesus?
In Exodus 4:10, we see Moses pleading with God, “O Lord, I’m not very good with my words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”
Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”
Moses had to throw aside his fear, and although we can read on in the passage to see he didn’t entirely do so, God was still merciful and faithful and responded by telling him to have his brother Aaron speak with him. I found it interesting that God called Aaron a good speaker, but yet still wanted Moses to do the speaking, and that he still promised to be with both of them while they spoke.
This tells me that God doesn’t choose us because we are perfect at a task. He chooses us with all our imperfections, fears, and excuses, and he also sends us helpers to be with us in our difficult challenges.
So, I ask myself, what fear is keeping me from doing the will of God? Is it possible he has people in mind to help me do the things he has asked that I feel unqualified to do?
Speaking of helpers, we see a whole bunch of them in 2 Kings 6:16-17:
“Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.
So I ask myself, why do I sometimes fear or worry when God is so powerfully with me? How many invisible helpers surround me each day, protecting and guiding me?
Back to that tree, because I haven’t forgotten it, nor can I when it stands tall in my view each day that I’m at home. It may seem like a stretch to think that God allowed that limb to fall so I would remember what I needed to throw off of myself, but nonetheless, it is that reminder for me, and I really find that when I’m purposely looking for God in my days, these little things only bring me closer to hearing what God is saying all the time. It could be the tree limb falling, or words from a friend, a hug from a child, a conversation with someone who knows me and encourages me, or is downright honest with me. In other words, God is speaking and showing up for me all the time. I simply need to pay attention in order to SEE.
I stumbled upon a quote this week from French priest Jean-Pierre de Caussade that affirms this idea of paying attention to all the little things in order to see God:
“Those who have abandoned themselves to God always lead mysterious lives and receive from him exceptional and miraculous gifts by means of the most ordinary, natural and chance experiences in which there appears to be nothing unusual. The simplest sermon, the most banal conversation, the least erudite books become a source of knowledge and wisdom to these souls by virtue of God's purpose. This is why they carefully pick up crumbs which clever minds tread under foot, for to them everything is precious and a source of enrichment. They exist in a state of total impartiality, neglecting nothing, respecting and making use of everything."
The tree is thriving today, and it’s a very dry and windy day out there. It’s handling the stress quite well. It didn’t need that extra limb weighing it down, and in fact, it’s probably much healthier without it.
Maybe I’ll shed a limb too – that one of fear, of worry, of doubt, and leave some space for abandonment to God, of paying attention to the littlest of things, of picking up crumbs to follow what God has planned for me. I pray that for you this week too.
Thank you for your ever present love and protection. Thank you for the gifts you send us every day. Help us to notice them, to notice you in the everyday moments of our lives, to trust you and let go of anything keeping us from fully seeing and knowing you. May we walk through our days in step with you and help others to do the same.
In Jesus’ name we pray,
This past week we reflected on SEEING more of God. If you didn’t receive that list of readings, I’ll list them again here, and they’re also on my previous blogpost where I introduced the plan for this God-Weaved weekly series of readings and journal prompts.
This week’s readings were:
1 Peter 2: 1-10,
2 Kings 6:8-23,
Have a blessed weekend. Happy journaling, reflecting, and living out your God-Weaved story. Expect your next God-Weaved post to arrive on Monday.