In Northern Colorado, we’re in the thick of Fall, and while the first day of winter isn’t officially until December 21st, we’ve already had a couple of snowfalls. The seasons are changing. If I wore shorts, a t-shirt, and sandals for my walk to the office this morning, I would have been very uncomfortable in the below-freezing temperatures. It would be foolish and unhealthy for me to deny the change in seasons. Instead, I reacted to what I know is true and adapted accordingly. The same is true for our lives and the seasons that we go through. We need to react to God’s voice in our hearts and be willing to change accordingly.
As I was driving yesterday and asking God what he wanted the next message to be about, he dropped the image of Fall leaves into my mind. I thought, “Okay, God, what’s that about?” and he began to show me that there is a purpose in why deciduous trees drop their leaves. He didn’t spell out what that purpose was, but I knew that if I dug deeper into this ‘why’, that God had a message for us, so that’s what I did. It’s been such a blessing.
Life From Season to Season
God brings us through changes and seasons in our lives (Ecclesiastes 3), and there are changes in our life that he will call us to make or allow so that we can move into the new season ready and equipped to live in the fullness of the new season. If we don’t allow God to prepare us for the coming season, we will struggle and we’ll miss opportunities to be blessed and to be a blessing.
I have a friend and co-worker who is running a half-marathon today. It’s her first race of this length. She’s a runner and has run shorter races before, but in spite of this prior experience, or rather because of her maturity as a runner, in the weeks leading up to this race she has been training. She’s listened to wise counsel on what to do and what not to do to prepare for a half-marathon. Imagine if she just showed up to the race today without any preparation. She’s probably in good enough physical condition to complete the race, but it would have been a painful struggle and she wouldn’t finish with as good a completion time as I’m sure she will today because of her preparation.
Spiritually, God calls us to make changes in our lives periodically to prepare for a new season. Late last year, I felt God tugging at my heart in regard to our home. We were living in the nicest house that we’ve ever lived in as a family. We were proud of our home. It was spacious enough to have a home office, a playroom for the kids, and enough bedrooms for each of our boys to eventually have their own room.
The rent was expensive, but our finances were sound, and yet I felt like God was calling us to move into a smaller house. Amanda and I prayed about it and agreed that we were supposed to move.
When our lease was up for renewal, we gave notice that we were moving out and God connected us with a family at our church who wanted to lease their home but hadn’t even put it up for rent yet. The rent was significantly lower than what we were paying on our house in Fort Collins. It was closer to church, to Amanda’s parents, and unbeknownst to me at the time, in a neighbor just across the street from where I would end up setting up office for my business.
We moved on March 31st, and in May my largest client gave notice that he was transferring his Internet marketing to another company. The loss in income would have made life very difficult for us if we had renewed our lease in Fort Collins, but because we listened to God’s voice and dropped that house like a tree drops its leaves, we have been financially comfortable despite the loss in income. Best of all, our new house, despite being smaller and older than our house in Fort Collins, feels more like home to us than any other place where we have lived.
We adapted to the coming season because we listened to God’s voice.
Why Deciduous Living is so Important for Christians
When I started researching deciduous trees (trees that shed their leaves), I heard God speaking to me from the very beginning. This is an excerpt for the Wikipedia page for ‘Deciduous’:
“Deciduous means “falling off at maturity” or “tending to fall off”, and is typically used in reference to trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally, and to the shedding of other plant structures such as petals after flowering or fruit when ripe. In a more general sense, deciduous means the dropping of a part that is no longer needed, or falling away after its purpose is finished.”
When God moves us into a new season of spiritual maturity, it’s important to shed things that God prompts us to remove from our lives. To be clear, it’s important to remove the things that GOD calls us to remove. Many people make the mistake of trying to make themselves more Christian when they come into relationship with Jesus. This is an exercise in futility because only God can truly make you more like Jesus, but I’ll save that for another message.
Shouldn’t Christians Be Evergreens?
You may be thinking, “Pine trees are evergreen. Aren’t they kind of ‘better’ in that they are able to keep their leaves year-round?” I wondered the same thing.
It turns out that there are positives and negatives to being a deciduous tree as are there positives and negatives to being an evergreen. The biggest plus to being deciduous is that these trees conserve water during the winter by dropping their leaves because the leaves are where water escapes or is released from trees in the largest amounts. In the Fall, deciduous trees change the shape of the cells that connect to the leaves. The new shape essentially seals in moisture at these old connection points and severs the connection between the tree limbs and the leaves.
Because of this protection, deciduous trees are able to have internal physiology that evergreens cannot afford to have. Evergreens have thinner xylem vessels in order to protect them as they lose water through their leaves or “needles” year-round. Since deciduous trees don’t lose water through their leaves during the winter, they can have larger xylem vessels, which means that they can more freely transfer water and nutrients to maximize growth during the summer months when sunshine is most abundant.
What Happens if We Don’t Drop our “Leaves”?
What is the spiritual significance of this science? When God calls us to lay something down in our lives, it is frequently because he wants us to protect us from something or to enable us to be more effective in a coming season. Where trees lose water in the physical sense, humans lose joy in the spiritual realm. Nehemiah 8:10 says that the joy of the Lord is our strength. God gives us the ability to have joy that is not rooted in our circumstances, but if we’re clinging to things that God has told us to let go of, we can’t cling to God too, and he’s the source of the joy of the Lord.
Last year, we had an early snow storm. Hardly any of the leaves had dropped and the storm had a lot of wet snow and freezing rain that clung to the leaves. Branches were torn from trees by the sheer weight of the snow and ice.
In the wake of the storm, many people lost power due to fallen trees that broke power lines, and I remember thinking that the area looked almost like it had been hit by a hurricane rather than a snow storm. All of this was because the trees hadn’t dropped their leaves before the severe winter weather had come.
Here’s another example: Did you know that baby teeth in humans are called deciduous teeth? You’ve probably seen what happens when a baby tooth doesn’t fall out when it’s supposed to. The permanent tooth growing beneath the baby too ends up growing out in a place where it isn’t supposed to, which can lead to the need for braces or even oral surgery.
I’ve never had braces, but I’ve definitely gone through spiritual correction before, and neither are much fun. Not too long ago, I started a company that was a spin-off of my main business. I prayed about starting it and got God’s clearance to do so, but then I got out ahead of him and started making this spin-off business more of a focus than what God had for me. It was a distraction and God definitely wasn’t in the plans that I had built up in my mind for it.
Eventually, I realized that God was waiting patiently for me to come back to where I had run off from the path that he has laid out for me. I discovered that all of the investments of time and money that I made in trying to launch this business into a multimillion dollar empire were basically a waste, and it would be futile to try to pump more into it, not because the idea for the business wasn’t a good one, but because that wasn’t the direction where God was taking me.
It wasn’t fun to have to admit to my friends and family that I had been following my agenda and not His plan, but when I finally shed my plan and moved into the new season that God had planned for, my stress levels went down and my joy and peace levels went way up! I was also thankful that I had heeded God’s admonition before it lead to serious destruction in my life.
Free-Flowing Joy in the Presence of the Lord
We all go through seasons. Some seasons are filled with trials and others are filled with abundance, but when we learn to move with God instead of him dragging us along kicking and screaming as we cling to some stupid thing that has no eternal significance, we can enjoy the free-flowing freedom, peace, and joy that comes with the presence of God in our lives.
When we release things in obedience to God, we see his glory released in our lives as we come in line with who we are in Christ.
The green color in leaves, you probably know, is caused by chlorophyll. This chlorophyll is constantly replenished by the trees as long as they need the leaves for photosynthesis, but when God breathes the cooler winds of late summer and early Fall through their limbs and whispers, “Winter is coming,” in obedience, the trees stop replenishing the chlorophyll. This reveals the carotenoids and anthocyanin pigments that carry the golden yellows, oranges and vivid reds that we all love about Fall leaves, and the leaves soon fall to the ground. The truth is, the glory of those Fall colors was always there, but they are only revealed in due season as a result of the obedient nature of the tree. We have that nature too.