Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Parable of the Leaf

I don't really have a favorite season.

I like things about every time of year; I also dislike some things about every season. 
I'm usually ready for something different by the time the next one rolls around. 
But not always...

For example, I can't say I was really ready for the ten inches of snow we got a few days ago. 
I mean, it's pretty and everything - but it sure made getting around harder and more hazardous.

This autumn was particularly nice. It was relatively warm, and the fall colors were spectacular.  
The maple tree that shades our driveway was a riot of yellow, orange and red.

And it stayed beautiful for a couple weeks.
Even the leaves that fell on the ground were really pretty.

Every morning my pickup would be covered with leaves.
No worry there - I just started up and drove off, and the leaves went flying. Except one.

My truck has one of those bug guard things mounted on the hood, and this particular leaf had lodged itself behind it. As I'd drive along, it would flip up and wave at me, then duck back down behind the bug deflector. Over and over and over again.

Now, I'd seen tenacious leaves before. Sooner or later the wind would catch them, and they'd fly off. So I knew it was just a matter of time till this one took off, too. I started paying attention as I drove to and from work and church. This leaf continued to hang on day after day. Even after little pieces of it fell off from the force of air whipping it back and forth, it refused to just let go and move to its final rest.

After a while, I started to get annoyed. Stupid leaf keeps flipping up and down as I drive. Why doesn't it just let go and fly away? I watched every day; it continued to hold on despite all the forces trying to drive it off. Lesser leaves had succumbed to the pressure days before. The maple tree that had produced this leaf was nearly barren. Still this leaf stubbornly refused to give in.

Every time I started the truck, I expected that leaf to be gone. And there it was, waving at me. 
I quit being annoyed, and began to be impressed. Look at that guy! Fighting for existence long after all hope should be gone. I like it!

What was the secret of its amazing survival? Eventually I had to look.

When I examined it, I found that this leaf was still attached to a branch that had fallen and lodged itself in the space between the bug guard and the hood. (You can see a little of it in the picture above.) As long as the leaf stayed connected to the branch, it didn't matter what force of wind came against it. It might be battered and torn up, but it couldn't be dislodged.

Wow. What a lesson for us.

Jesus said, "I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit. But you cannot do anything without me." (John 15:5 CEV)

Sometimes when the troubles of life come at me, I try to handle them in my own strength. Typically, that doesn't work out so well. As long as I stay closely connected to Christ, 
I find wisdom and ability to survive the trials. He wants to help me, but will never force me to do 
His will. I have to choose His way every day, every hour, every minute. That is what it means to stay connected to the vine.

You'd think I would have this process down pat after more than 40 years of serving Jesus. 
But as Jesus pointed out, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38 NIV) 
My flesh wants to rule, and it's easy to give in to my natural tendencies. Even though the end result is less than optimal, my default mode is to trust myself rather than really let God lead. 
I always seem to think, "This time it'll be different." But failure looms every time.

I need to be reminded often: I must abide in Christ. That's what this little leaf did for me. 
Connected to the branch, it couldn't be dislodged. Even though I couldn't see the branch, it was there providing security and support for that leaf. Its source of strength was completely adequate to keep it going long after all the other, unattached leaves had blown away. 

Storms will come. Trouble, pain and difficulty are guaranteed in this life. But Jesus has promised to be with us. With His help, we can overcome and be victorious. We might be bruised and battered - even Jesus has scars - but God "always leads us in triumph in Christ." (2 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV)

So hang on! Never give up. With God's help, you will survive every trial and fulfill your purpose in this life. You have His Word on it. 

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