Sunday, October 5, 2008

The dogwood

Looking out my front window just now, I realize that autumn is landing in our garden.  The hydrangeas' leaves are just starting to turn, the maple's are already orange, and the dogwood tree's almond-shaped leaves are varigated: from still-green to tinged with pink to completely crimson. We've only had the dogwood about 4 years; this was only the third year it bloomed at all.  What a glorious surprise it was that first spring--covered with snowy white blossoms.  That first blooming was beautiful, but since then, it's been spectacular as more and more flowers appear.  And it's just as gorgeous in the fall, its leaves a brilliant scarlet as they begin to tumble to the ground. 

Some people don't like deciduous trees--the mess of dead leaves is such a hassle, after all.  When I was growing up, my grandparents had many deciduous trees in their backyard.  I remember raking them one fall with my brother and sister, then climbing into an old sturdy apple tree and jumping into into the pile of leaves beneath.  We didn't have such trees at our newly built house across the state from them, so I loved it--the raking and especially the jumping. 

During the summer, when the leaves are just an uninteresting green, I don't pay too much attention to the dogwood.  But beneath the surface, the roots are digging deep. They're spreading and growing and creating a tree that bears such flowers, and turn out such brilliant red leaves as they die.  In the winter, there's little to commend this tree.  The skeleton isn't very appealing to me--it looks a little like a denuded umbrella. Even then, however, when the rains come and the fierce wind blows from the southwest, it stands against the elements, because of what is happening beneath the surface.

We're like the dogwood, aren't we? There are such seasons in our lives, seasons of blooming, seasons where our leaves seem to be dying and dropping to the ground, seasons of feeling denuded and dead. (I was once even decked out in flowers--in the springtime of my life, covered in white as I walked down an aisle toward my life.) It's a part of the cycle, perhaps--even the dead times!  Maybe instead of worrying about the 'autumns' in our lives, when everything feels like it's dying, we should simply trust that it's a season, that new life will come.  If our roots are deep and our limbs are raised, we can survive autumn, we can withstand winter storms.  It's our roots we have to worry about.

"...If the root is holy, so are the branches." Romans 11:16  "...you do not support the root, but the root supports you." Romans 11:18b. 
That's it, of course. The roots are Christ.  Christ in me.  So no matter what the topside looks like--feels like--the root keeps me strong...grounded.  "Christ in me, the hope of glory," says Colossians 1:27.  The hope of glorious springtime flowers.

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