Watch the Trees

Pink sunset over a river.

A few months ago, in February, the snow made the roads too slick and visibility too dim to drive to work. I worked from home at my dining room table, tapping away on my laptop and laughing at some plump robins I saw out the window. They hopped from branch to branch in the crabapple tree, gobbling up the small red fruit. The sun melted the snow into shining drops that hung and then fell beneath the robins’ feet.

Now, the earth hovers between wild, wet snowstorms (like this morning) and clear days when the air’s bitter chill softens. The bare tree branches, brown and gray, are gold in the radiance of early morning and evening. Like all seasonal transitions, this time of waiting feels special to me: as if we’re waiting for something that’s never happened before, that we’ve only dreamed about before.

In my school years, spring was the season of deepest, most painful yearning for me. Though I love learning, my shyness and laziness meant that I never enjoyed the schedule, work, and social demands of school. I connected summer with heaven: perfect rest (sleeping in), perfect peace (no scheduled schoolwork), perfect beauty (the maple trees all green, the peonies blushing pink), and perfect joy (playing, biking, swimming, or reading books all day). When warm breezes carried the smell of fresh earth and new growth, bright green leaves softened the trees, and deep-souled purple crocuses sprouted up, I ached for summer and grew increasingly grumpy in the classroom.

This is my third spring after finishing college, and I no longer connect summer with heaven. I’ve learned to love fall, the season I used to hate as the summoner of ugly yellow school buses, dead leaves, and the renewal of imprisonment in school. But spring is still a season of waiting.

“Watch the trees,” my college roommate and I used to warn each other solemnly. We joked about how quickly the buds on the trees burst into Scottish green leaves and fragrant blossoms, as if the trees conspired to surprise us every year. We tried to watch the bare branches carefully, every day, to catch those quiet signs of transition before the change.

I no longer expect the summer season be heaven and fulfill my dreams of rest, peace, beauty, and joy. But the uncertainties of young adulthood have replaced the feeling of being trapped and suppressed that I had in school. I longed for freedom, but sometimes it feels like I have too much: too many choices, too many opportunities.

As C.S. Lewis said in The Screwtape Letters (letter XXV), seasons are the perfect pattern of permanence and change, God’s perfect gift to fickle humans who long for both. I’m slowly awakening to the truth that life’s seasons, like nature’s seasons, have beauty and pain – and underneath, the bedrock of God’s promises, His goodness, His life.

I’m watching the trees. I’m waiting – with uncertainty, with impatience, but knowing that God’s joy outlives all seasons.

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