Once fall’s majestic colors faded, however, we were in for a surprise. Suddenly we saw dozens of houses that we didn’t know were there! The neighborhood was still sparsely populated; only 295 houses spread among 5900 acres. But now every turn seemed to reveal another dwelling; tucked away in another corner of the woods, there all the time…but we had no idea!
Driving to church from the cabin early one Sunday morning, I was deep in thought about how to handle a really tough time in my life. I struggled to find answers and faced things I had never faced before. I just couldn’t find the strength to overcome them. But as I drove, things suddenly came into focus, and I saw a weakness I had never before realized within me. In that moment I knew the weakness stood between me and the strength…and solutions…that I needed so badly.
Just as the coming of winter stripped away the beautiful green leaves that hid those cabins, going through my hard time forced me to reach past the pretty “leaves” that I used to cover my weakness. When life was easy, I focused on everyday life and avoided what lay beneath the routine of the expected. But when forced to deal with my unexpected crisis, surviving became anything but routine. That tough time forced me to reach deep down into who I really was; to find a foundation solid enough to stand on. To find my way to the other side of my struggle, I had to push aside the pretty branches of comfortable normalcy and take a fresh, deeper look into myself. What I saw was a weakness; there the whole time, yet hidden.
Just like those cabins. Hidden in the summer, yet so easy to see in wintertime’s leafless wonder. Hiding my weakness didn’t make it non-existent; it just made it easier to ignore. But once the covering was stripped away, I couldn’t ignore it! I took a deep breath, asked God to make His strength perfect in my weakness, and turned to face the things that needed to change.
A few seasons (and many steps) removed from the first moment I brushed aside the branches, I have come to appreciate the beauty of life’s barren “winters.” Life’s struggles force us to abandon the fluff with which we cushion our lives. As we watch the fluff fly away, we grab for the part of us that can hold fast and true as the cold winds of trial rage in our soul.
Though never pleasant, these times are also never dormant. The work of growth toils beneath the surface during these times. Grow we must; otherwise we are tossed away and crumble like just another dried leaf.
Because I turned toward what God revealed during that tough time, I now find His voice easier to hear. Standing on the ever-firmer foundation built within, I find peace closer at hand. And I find beauty in the barren landscape of leafless seasons.
I don’t want to tarry there; the first touch of a lighter, warmer day and scent of a new season draws my heart like the first spring flower reaching above the snow. But as I shake away the last tatters of what was, and leave behind the weakness that just doesn’t fit any more, I smile to think of the beauty that lies around every bend…no matter what tomorrow brings.