The leaves are falling from the sugar maple across the street, yet there are still enough stragglers to remind me of its former glory, even as some of its bare branches point toward the future. What was is going. The tree’s leafless branches point me toward a future yet to arrive.
I am impatient. I want change; social change, political change, personal change, spiritual change, emotional change. I want it now, but this amazing tree reminds me to wait, to accept life’s cycles as the necessary cycle of life I must embrace. The tree reflects the ebbs and flows of energy, of fecundity, death, mine, yours, the universe. My impatience gets me nowhere, but I am still impatient. It’s hard not to project, to anticipate the future I want for my loved ones, myself. My head knows I need to step back, but my heart hurts for all of us caught up in this gigantic press of seeming chaos, evolving situations, cycles, recreations.
I am all too aware the world does not revolve around me and my desires. I am simply a tiny microcosm of the larger whole, just as that larger whole is composed of many you’s and me’s. This business of living is nothing more than allowing ourselves to reflect the divine image, love’s energy always pointing us toward relationships, connections, inclusion. It is always there, this loving life-giving energy, waiting patiently for us to open ourselves, to take it in, to share and pass it on.
We are each microscopic pebbles thrown into the stream of life, our presence barely impacting the water, yet sending out ever widening ripples. We matter, you and I. We matter because we are all part of the larger whole, the larger whole a part of us. That’s a lot to take in, that in the immensity of the cosmos our teeny ripples both effect and affect the ripples of others. We are together in this business of living, whether we like it or not. We impact each other for good or ill.
Father Richard Rohr says sin is breaking the flow of loving energy. What we are about, he says, is closing the gap. Being conduits. Loving the unloveable. Forgiving the unforgiveable. Practicing gratitude. Paying it forward. Improving our conscious contact with the God of our understanding. Making amends. Doing out daily inventory. Being a good neighbor. Listening to understand, not refute.
I gaze at my teaching tree, grateful for its very concrete reminder that what appears as dying is not death but loving energy creating new life, even now waiting in the wings. What is today’s sorrow is not forever. It may become tomorrow’s happiness. Yes, it hurts now, but now is always changing, evolving. Our call, you and I, is to embrace one moment at a time, even when it’s not what we want it to be. God does not ask more of us than we can do if we stay in this moment. Each of us can live one day at a time, opening ourselves to life’s freely given teaching moments, teaching trees, teaching friends, teaching reflections. We, you and I, we can strive to open ourselves to those moments when the sin breaks close and we experience those fleeting, life giving momentsof love, hope, a sense of togetherness.
Joyce Shutt is the pastor emeritus of Fairfield Mennonite Church