Snow should be the last thing on my mind on such a glorious Spring day. But while my kindergartener clamored into the bare branches of our Curly Willow tree, my feet crunched over the carpet of dried and fallen twigs and prodded the heavy limb that fell during the recent storm.
In my memory I could see this same tree, its graceful boughs clothed with spiraling ribbons of leaves, but many of those arms splintered and dangling precariously, even more of them littering the surrounding grass. The culprit was not ferocious winds or bolts of lightening, but a simple coating of snow. Deciduous trees must shed their leaves before the snow falls or the weight of the snow clinging to the surface of thousands of leaves creates a weight too strong for the tree to sustain.
You and I are a lot like trees in this way.
The image of my own Curly Willow, broken under the weight of snow-laden branches has lodged in my mind since reading this metaphor in Lysa TerKeurst’s book The Best Yes a year ago. She describes a similar, too-early snow storm that caused tree after tree to lose their branches because the snow-on-leaves weight was simply too heavy.
She writes that like trees, you and I are not meant to “carry the weight of two seasons simultaneously” (ch. 8).
We all have arms heavy with responsibilities, like the many leaves that fill the trees. But seasons change. We take on new tasks, goals and necessities. What happens when the seasons change and we cling to our leaves, refusing to change along with the seasons?
Like the tree, add enough weight and there will be fractured limbs, causalities because we are either too stubborn or naïve to release.
The barren boughs of wintertime can sustain feet of snow–because they have released their leaves.
Sometimes we sense the changing of seasons long before the shift, we have the chance to shed our leaves in the proper time. Other times an unexpected squall blows in, maybe it won’t even last for long, but what will we do? Release or refuse?
“I know the weight of carrying more than I should. And usually it’s because I’ve refused to release something before taking on something else” (ch. 8).
These new weights can be welcome ones, the addition of a child, the realization of a dream, a new ministry—or they can be uninvited guests, the sudden illness of a family member, increased responsibilities at work, even relational or emotional upsets. Welcome or not, there is often something we need to release. But we resist, afraid to let go or perhaps convinced we are strong enough to bear it all.
We are like these trees in another important way: the seasons will continue to change around us.
The arrival of snow does not usher in a never-ending winter. The release of leaves does not mark the death of the tree. The snow will melt in the warmth of Spring, flowers will unfurl from the dark earth, and the leaves will bud again.
Even when the snow comes before the fall of leaves and the weight of the snow mars the tree with snapped limbs and scattered branches, there is hope. The spring will still come. The summer itself will come and the tree will grow and spread its arms once more. The once disfigured and lopsided silhouette of the tree will fill out and grow strong with the changing of seasons and the once-splintered boughs will flourish anew. So we, even when we possess scars from refusing to let go, can flourish once more.
And at the next changing of seasons, we can release the former things that are no longer best and enter into the new.