I have two beautiful trees in my front yard. My favorite tree of all casts shade over the whole yard and also holds a tree swing, which I risked my life to hang! Spring came along and I noticed that this particular tree was not producing any new leaves. It sounds a little trivial, but I was deeply saddened that my favorite tree was dying. I waited patiently hoping it just needed a little extra time. Summer came around and nothing had changed.
As I was sharing my concerns with a neighbor, she mentioned that I should call an arborist. It had come to this point—a point where I was willing to call a doctor for my tree! He arrived and told me my tree was indeed sick and required tree medicine or we would eventually have to cut it down. It never ended up producing leaves and remained bare all throughout the summer, but I knew it was getting healthy deep inside. For months I anguished over this dying tree and was saddened by the lack of shade and the literal eyesore it had become.
Then an ice storm decided to blow over Oklahoma in late October. We are no strangers to ice storms in Oklahoma, but they are extremely dangerous this early in the year because of one thing: the leaves! You see, when trees still have their leaves, the limbs become extremely heavy when you add ice. After two days of freezing rain, my neighborhood looked like a tornado had swept through. I remember waking up in the middle of the night to what sounded like cracks of thunder. Except there was no thunder; it was the sound of trees splitting around my house. A huge boom followed some of those cracks of thunder, and my whole house would shake as tree limbs crashed into my roof.
I woke up the next morning and looked out my front door to see only a few small limbs broken off from my sick tree. That’s when I realized that my tree’s sickness during the springtime saved it during the wintertime. The very thing that had saddened me and caused me so much concern was the very thing that saved my tree. Do you see the lesson here? I prayed over that tree, I paid a tree doctor to save it, and I was so upset over its condition. But on this morning, after that ice storm, I was so very thankful it had been sick. The other tree in my yard was almost destroyed, and we spent hours cutting wood and moving it to the curb to be thrown away. But my favorite tree was saved by a season that did not produce new growth, a season that looked terrible and caused fear. Now that I was standing in a new season, I had suddenly become thankful for the bad that was now producing good.
In Colossians chapter three Paul brings us to this understanding of thankfulness in an interesting way. He lays out eight actions we should “put on” and then asks us to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. After all of that he bluntly states, “And be thankful.” Read Colossians 3:12-15 for yourself and watch as he abruptly challenges us to be thankful.
I don’t think I will ever forget that tree. I’m going to start calling it my thankfulness tree. It reminds me I have, and probably always will have, moments that look like death that eventually bring life.
Maybe you’re in that season where your life shows no hope of growth or beauty. Just know that if you take care of yourself now (see Colossians 3:12-15 for your medicine), then you will eventually move into the season where what was defeating you becomes what saves you. May you find thankfulness in all of the seasons. Even the ones where you see no leaves. Even in the middle of a storm weighing you down. Find thankfulness knowing we serve a God who can turn death into life and nothing into something. Find yourself a thankfulness tree to walk past every day to remind you of these things. And be thankful.