I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
(Psalm 139: 14-16)
skeleton (noun) – an internal framework of bone supporting the body ; the essential part of something
I’m an evergreen person. I feel that, in regards to personal affection for trees, you are either a deciduous person or an evergreen person, and I am an evergreen person.
But today, a deep winter day, I’m a deciduous person instead.
When I was out walking, my eyes were continuously drawn upward to the bare-branch canopy. As I looked, I grew slowly aware of how much more I knew of trees in their unadorned nakedness. I could see how many and which kind of bird chose to perch themselves in each tree. I could view the nests that had laid hidden behind foliage, poised in delicate permanence. Most of all, I could see the shape and bend and break of each branch. I could see the way, through thick branch and thin twig, a particular tree had readjusted itself to reach for the light.
To see deciduous trees de-leafed is see these tree for what they are. It is to become acquainted with their skeleton.
These leafless trees look vulnerable in their plain skeleton frame. Their leaves are their pride, after all, their assumed beauty. It seems them must feel ashamed of their winter leaflessness. However (and they might not realize this) their skeleton is their song, their best and most telling feature. It is their architecture, their true design, their wiring.
I couldn’t help but think of how often we are afraid to lay ourselves similarly bare. We fear our figurative skeleton (our essence) too abnormal, too strange to reveal in fullness to others…perhaps we fear even more to reveal it in fullness to ourselves. Maybe you don’t fear this, but I sometimes do.
So, we pile on adornments to our skeleton, to the core of our identity, in the form of practical goals, hobbies, busy schedules. We like to hide away that hidden bird’s nest of a pipe-dream goal, so that we never see it, forget it’s even perched somewhere deep inside our branches, in delicate permanence. There seems to be a subliminal objective to simply become one of the green blur, to blend in with the rest of the tress, to become seamless, one of the woodland without causing a stir or a stare. I’ve told myself that I don’t, in fact, want this…but, looking at the deciduous trees, I realized how hesitant I remain to be as transparent as they, to muster the courage for difference.
It is not that the adornments (the figurative leaves) are something “bad”, something to be permanently removed. The leaves of deciduous trees are lovely, but they are made lovely by their seasonality: their Spring green, there deepening hue of summer, their transformation to warm colors in autumn. All those phases are made more lovely by the fact they do in fact, in the winter season, completely abandon deciduous trees, re-revealing the trees’ frame.
As the verse from Psalms says, we are “wonderfully made” because our frame is one of God’s works, and all His works, like trees, are “wonderfully made.” Do we really believe this about ourselves? I find it hard to do so, and I also find it hard to know exact what my brand of “made” is unless I become leafless. Why is knowing the self such a challenge?
Deciduous trees in their leafless season remind me of the importance of knowing not only my own skeleton, but seeking the intentionality of knowing others in this same way. These winter trees remind me to invest in others in a manner that makes them feel they can share their individual architecture, and come to see this Spirit skeleton as something wonderfully made. I want to do this not only for their benefit, but for mine as well – the biggest compliments I have ever received is to reach a point of confidence with another person that they feel they can be “deciduous” with me.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
These trees taught me another lesson as well. The branches of wintered, deciduous trees look like a bouquet of fingers, reaching ever-eagerly for the light. Isn’t that how we should each be living? Ever-reaching for the Light?
When you walk past these trees, they beckon you to look both up and towards the light. The light seems somehow brighter with their skeleton standing as its frame. The contrast of light ray to the silhouette of tree-frame makes the light bold and unavoidable. When the branches are in leaf they sometimes filter this light in a lovely way, but often end up blocking it entirely.
This says to me just how much our transparency with others can beckon them to look up and towards the light, towards the source of Light. It reminds me of the prompt for us to point to the Creator of Light with our life so that they may come to know, praise, and Love the Father as well. This says to me just how much being willing to be honest and vulnerable about our inner wiring, our essential structure can make looking to the Creator something unavoidable to behold, make His presence and goodness something bold…and most importantly, something knowable.
Today, a deep winter day, I’m thankful for the lessons of deciduous trees. Today I am a deciduous person.