I am not an evergreen tree. Definitely not. Neither actually nor metaphorically.
I love evergreen trees, in particular evergreen conifers. Tall and stately, they smell good, live long, and give shape to majestic winter scenes. Sporting a conical shape and waxy-coated, narrow leaves photosynthesizing slowly but surely all year round, they survive tough winter conditions. Walking on their fallen needles, my tread is soft, quiet, springy, and clean. Conifers grow together well and seem much more likely to share space without shoving, crowding or poking each other. Evergreens behave. Even their seeds are tidy, tucked away from sight, spirally arranged in orderly, mathematically elegant Fibonacci number ratios.
On my walk today, I sensed God telling me I am more like a broad-leafed deciduous tree. Though of course He was right, at first I was disappointed. I am intense, active, spreading, always changing. My emotions and thoughts catch the wind like broad leaves, sometimes blowing about and scattering, often creating crackling untidiness underfoot. My life is lived in seasons, with great variability in fruitfulness and beauty, but rooted in one surety—before long, I will change once again.
Yet, in His tender kindness, God also showed me ways He formed me that He pronounces “good” along with the rest of Creation. Unlike conifers, I bear fruit, sometimes sweet, sometimes sticky and messy, but ripe with potential to feed others. I don’t hold tightly to my leaves but am willing to let them drop and disperse. Broad leaves may just photosynthesize seasonally, but quickly and efficiently.
Broadleaf deciduous trees live in tune to the seasons. In spring, they are brilliant green and unfurling with hope. In summer, they offer abundant shade and respond readily to the slightest whisper of Wind. In autumn, as their productive green chlorophyll breaks down, red and yellow pigments which had always been present become unexpectedly visible. And finally, in winter, the now naked tree is dormant, resting and readying for whatever God brings next.
I still want to be tall and majestic, with less rapid change, more quiet gentleness, less drive to productivity, more unassuming ability to withstand raw winter blasts. But overall, I just want to be more deeply rooted in the reality of our triune God, more quick to absorb all He offers—whether sunlight, rain, the expired breath of humanity, or earth’s nutrients.
As I age, I become increasingly grateful the Body of Christ boasts such variability and beauty. The human forest which springs from the life Jesus laid down is alive and lovely with all kinds of trees, bushes, flowers and plants, and we are rooted together. I am increasingly awed to discover myself a unique and valued part of what God is up to in this world. And, though our daughters don’t like to hear the words spoken aloud, I am ready (whenever God wills) to fall to the ground, donating all of who I was in this earthly body and opening up space in the canopy for others to take my place.