Winter Trees

It is January. I stand alone in the quiet woods on the hilltop, its peace distilling my spirit. Last year I discovered this hidden place, accessible through my own secret path beyond trails that dead-end uphill next to a park.

It was one of the unexpected gifts of 2020, and I have come here now for the first time in 2021. I have learned much from the trees over the past year, wandering through the woods alone, in constant contemplation and communication with my Creator, favorite pen and journal stashed in a small bag across my shoulder.

Today the trees stand naked in sunshine. Humble and exposed, all cover gone. The sunlight cuts long, golden angles across the ground covered with dead leaves. In the starkness of winter, it is easy to distinguish the edges of shadow and light, a line more distinct, less fuzzy.

There are no excuses in the winter woods.

Suddenly, there is the unusual and loud trill of a bird, visible on a barren branch. The song invites other quiet bird songs, softening the woods, reaching even to the colder pockets in the dense spots. A robin hops along the ground, with plenty of quiet space to forage for food.

Even now, the trees serve.

“The Bible compares people with trees,” said a pastor last night. Planted. Rooted and strong, fruit-bearing—or not. Like them, we stand open to the eyes of the one true Light. Examined, known, assessed.

Such an encounter with God, the Light, said another pastor today, enables us to see ourselves truly and rightly. Humbles us to our knees, aware of every gnarl and rough place, every shadow of self, every stain of sin, every moment of unclean lips… while at the same time experiencing the warmth and glory and love of that Light.

Light beautifies the colorless trees, lost of foliage. Light beautifies the humble with salvation.

Humility is the key to the Christian life, I write in my journal, to becoming like Christ. God humbled Himself and became a human, changed His likeness forever. Dying on a tree, whose strength and seed He made, to take our deserved punishment and offer us eternal life. Humility proven by obedience, rewarded with resurrection.

2021. New year. New chance. New invitation to divine encounters, to the hidden path of humility that leads to the greatest revival of the life we long to experience.

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