The rains that have been so prevalent in Western Washington this season have taken the form of snow in the higher elevations, much to the delight of skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts. The drought of the past seasons seems but an unpleasant memory. The sight of the regal evergreens, their snow-dusted branches in vivid contrast to the clear azure sky, causes us to rejoice in the incredible beauty that is winter.
The recent snows in the Methow Valley have been wet and heavy. As the temperatures warm during the day, the trees often release their burden of snow, sometimes onto the heads of unfortunate skiers or snowshoers below. But it doesn›t always happen this way. On some trees, the snow continues to cling to the branches, melting somewhat and then refreezing as the temperatures drop in the evening. As this pattern reoccurs during the winter months, negative consequences result, often to the trees that seemed most lush and vigorous during the previous seasons. Encrusted with ice, then more snow, many of these trees bend under their heavy burden, sometimes almost to the ground. Other trees’ branches, when encountering normal strength winds, snap off as though they had been in a hurricane.
In studying the forested land on our property, it is hard to discern a pattern. Although trees with sparse branches rarely have trouble, there are some densely branched trees that seem to shed their snow load easily, and others that appear to hold on to every flake of snow that lights upon them. If these latter trees are not bowed over or broken, often their growth pattern becomes contorted over the years, causing them to struggle to reach through the forest toward the sun. It is as if in holding on to the blessing that is the snow, they are losing out on the possibility of growing straight and tall.
What a lesson for me to learn! In the midst of both the cares and the blessings of daily life, it is often hard for me to remember that these elements are to be held loosely. It is counterintuitive that I would try to hold on to negative things, but how often do I catch myself dwelling on past hurts, or worrying over things I have no control over? The scriptural admonition to cast my burdens on the Lord is definitely challenging for me. It is not only the negatives that can be bundled up as baggage, but also the positive elements of life. Tangible items can become burdens if caring for them distracts me from greater purposes. Ideas or philosophies, if held too fervently, can cause me to become narrow minded or intolerant. Relationships can become stifling if I cling to them too tightly. It seems like I am best served if I view the different aspects of my life as either challenges or blessings I’ve been given. Instead of grabbing onto them and holding tightly, if I release them to God, I am more likely to become the person I was created to be rather than someone weighted down or broken by the things of the world.
Lord, I know that you can utilize all the elements of this life to strengthen me and help me to grow into the person you desire me to be. I yearn to reach for your presence in both the joys and the challenges I encounter, releasing them for your purposes rather than holding on to them. May the visual lesson of the winter trees be a reminder of this truth to me. Amen.