And then, today, I saw the first to fall.
One lonely leaf, landing at the base of the tree.
I felt sorry for him.
Imagine it. Poor guy burst out of a blossom a few months ago. He’s hung on through day after day of rain (we’ve had a lot of rain here in South Carolina this summer). He’s held on through storms that removed entire limbs that grew nearby. He’s endured the baking heat that finally showed up at the end of August.
My guess is that he was ready to hang on all winter, but…things changed.
Circumstances beyond his control took hold. Chlorophyll production ended, no matter how hard he tried to keep it going. And now, here he is, laying at the bottom of the tree, while everyone else is still clinging to the branches above.
I wonder if he feels like a failure. Weak for dropping so soon.
I wonder if he’s shocked to find himself on an unexpected path. He never imagined he’d touch the ground, or be the playzone for squealing toddlers, or find himself living out his days tucked in the bumper of a minivan or trapped in a gutter.
Sometimes I feel like that leaf. My guess is that you do, too.
Maybe you feel like a failure because life has gone off on an unexpected path. Circumstances you never wanted or planned for took hold of you and now?
You never imagined the divorce, the unemployment, the silence of an empty womb. You didn’t expect to be living out your days in a shelter or buying your groceries with food stamps.
You didn’t anticipate the aging parent who has forever altered your perception of the term “empty nest” or the diagnosis that messed with your definition of “healthy.”
You knew your children would never flunk a class or have a DUI or father a child out of wedlock, and no way you’d ever struggle to get out of bed or fear the depths of the night.
You were ready to hang on to life and make it awesome, but here you are, wondering how on earth you could have fallen so far.
We think falling is bad. A mistake. A catastrophe. A sadness. At times it is.
But what if, like our leaf, the fall was not a disaster, but was simply the next step in fulfilling your purpose here on earth for this season.
The promotion that didn’t happen puts you on a path that leads to a co-worker’s salvation.
The child who broke your heart puts you on your knees and you find that prayer is more powerful than any other weapon in your arsenal.
The marriage that disintegrated, the finances in disarray, the depression that nearly destroyed you puts you in a place to be used of God in a way no one could have anticipated. Especially not you when you were young, green, and flapping high in that tree.
You aren’t the first to fall and this fall probably won’t be your last.
As you watch the leaves floating on the breeze, settling in the grass, being blown into piles, or ground into mulch, know that while they may be surprised to find themselves no longer flying high in the sky, they aren’t sad.
They are fulfilling their purpose and they find rest in that.
Oh that we could do the same.
Psalm 138:8 ~ The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. (ESV)