As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.
Genesis 8:22 (NLT)
Here in Minnesota, the sticky-hot, long days of summer stretch deep into September, then finally in October the nighttime and early morning air gives way to a chill.
And that’s when the trees know winter is coming. They prepare for it from the inside out.
This knowledge that the trees have feels important, kind of enormous. The trees flourish and reveal their truest selves as their leaves are dying. God has built truth and theology into trees, and I want to sit at their roots and learn.
How do the leaves know when to drop their guard of green and give into the process of dying to themselves? Why do they trust the timing each and every year? Do they lean into it, or do they fight back, stubborn in giving into the inevitable blaze of color?
My eight-year-old loves playing the “Did you know?” game. He loves taking in random trivia and facts, then busting them out in any silence he encounters. It gives me joy when I can mix it up and slip a “Did you know?” of my own in for him. Friends, did you know that most leaves are not inherently green? The green is the cover up. Their green color comes from the presence of a chemical called chlorophyll that thrives in warmer climates and weather. We think of leaves most often as green, yet deep inside the leaf are other chemicals — each with a different color. When the shortened sunlight of autumn returns, the chlorophyll backs off and lets the other chemicals (colors) shine.
Isn’t that incredible? This article sums it up: “Along with the green pigment are yellow to orange pigments, carotenes and xanthophyll pigments which, for example, give the orange color to a carrot. Most of the year these colors are masked by great amounts of green coloring.”
What we think of as a death — the leaves giving in to the coming cold and dying — is actually them revealing their truest selves.
The weather reflects a gradual change. It’s cool; the breezes are still; but deep down at their roots, the trees know major change is coming. They know they are to be robing themselves in color, preparing for a brand-new season of beauty — while some remain green. Are they the ones fighting back, pushing against what they truly are deep inside?
It sounds senseless to fight for remaining faded and tired instead of bursting gold, red, and orange. Instead, we hope the leaves cast off their wilted end-of-summer green and embrace what is deep down in the core, the beauty God has placed there to reveal in His time.
Maybe in the middle of our own everyday mess, mixed right into the struggles, God is preparing us for something. Maybe He wants us to choose to take hold, to dig deeper, to look beyond the mess and frustration, to become the best version of ourselves, to reflect with unquestionable certainty the glory hidden in our hearts because of where God first chose to take up residence.
Let’s yield to living color, the kind that shines brightest when dying to self has happened first.
Lord, may the change quietly filling the air spark the same in my heart. May I allow it to wash over my life, brightening each nook and cranny and sweeping the corners clean of staleness. May cool air fill my lungs as I breathe in Your grace and breathe out the old. May I learn, embrace, marvel at what the trees know. Amen.