My family and I had only been on the road for about 45 minutes before we started saying things like, “Look at that!” and “How beautiful!” We were headed West on I-70 for a weekend in the mountains in the middle of September. Anyone familiar with Colorado will tell you that this is within the relatively small window of time when the changing of the colors—especially on Aspen Trees—is particularly breathtaking. We were smitten already.
It was the next morning when I started to really think about those colors. They were a gift to the world, no doubt. Anyone paying attention found themselves taking a few seconds at a time simply staring at the hills outside of the cabin. Yes, it is a gift to us. But what is it really? What is this gift that is refreshing our souls in ways we can’t even really articulate?
During this time of year the trees are given a subtle message that it is time to let go. It is time to accept that these leaves were only theirs for a couple of seasons—that the time for those leaves to journey toward death is upon them. The trees, as if responding to that message with courage and obedience, begin the process of letting go—and it’s breathtaking.
If I were a tree, and my leaves were the things in my life that were only meant for a couple of seasons, and that subtle message came to me saying “It’s time to let go”, I would not be among the breathtaking and beautiful trees decorating the hillside. I would be that one stubborn tree that refuses to let go, whose leaves look sickly rather than beautiful as I cling to what is “Mine” with a death grip. I would not be a gift to the world, to those “leaves”, nor to myself.
I suppose, if we’re honest, many of us would be that kind of tree. We wouldn’t make a very pretty hillside, because we don’t do well with the invitation to let go. Maybe it’s relationships that have fulfilled their time of vitality and are coming to a natural end. Maybe it’s a job that felt life giving and even fun for a long time, but now you feel called to take a risk on something new. Maybe it’s a habit that used to feed our souls, but now only gets in the way of the life we feel drawn toward. Maybe our children are leaving their babyhood, graduating, getting married. Maybe we actually lose someone we love.
It’s a mystery really. Our natural tendency is to cling to those relationships, jobs, ways of seeing, theological constructs, etc. But when we do, we are stubbornly refusing to be a gift to the world, those “leaves”, and ourselves. The father who refuses to accept that his little girl is growing up, will only be so good of a dad in the season of life she is walking into. But the father who lets go of what has passed and embraces the new reality, will be the dad that she desperately needs.
What are you being asked to let go of? Are your colors changing? Or are you clinging to that which the season’s change is calling away?
Ben Edwards is a member of Celtic Way's Board of Directors. Read more about him here.