A parable had been unfolding in my front yard as I have been blogging this Lent. My liquid amber tree, never quite in sync with the other trees in the neighborhood, began shedding its leaves right after Christmas in lesser and greater amounts. As of the beginning of Lent, all the old leaves are gone, save this lone one. One can see the new green shoots and foliage begun to cluster farther down and above, but as of today, this leaf is hanging firm!
In my mode of sorting, shredding, recycling and dumping, clearing out spaces one at a time as a Lenten practice, I am reminded that there are some things to which I should hang on. Despite its appearance, the leaf is still alive and life-giving. It has been a gift of beauty, of shelter and shade for this entire season, and it is not finished yet, even for me. As I look at papers and mementos, I ask which of them still has life in them, energy, power to inspire and to move? Some remind me of a earlier time in my life that I can reclaim, put to use again. I love finding and keeping the tangible curios of times of loving, times of grace, times of celebration shared. They are visible reminders of invisible Grace.
As people of faith live together in this liminal time, in this sea change that is cultural and cross-cultural, in which we know something of where we have been, but for the most part have no idea of where we are going, we are engaging in process of deep discernment about whether or not to hang on to the symbols, words and practices of the communities that formed us. I have who have traveled in my years of spiritual formation from an independent, non-liturgical, fundamentalism to a longing for contemplative and orderly form for worship, still remember the energy and sense of belonging that came from gatherings in which the “old songs” were at my finger tips at the piano, and everyone in the room fell easily into four-part harmony, singing songs from the Wesleys and Fanny Crosby. An evening with an old hymnbook and friends from the same provenance is still life-giving and nourishing for my spirit. I want to hang on to the memories, even the practices, that still bring joy.
So for this moment I hang onto those things–in my cleared out spaces and in my spiritual practice and prayers for the Church–those things that are living and bring life in others.
As I went to post this offering, I went to look at my tree, and that last leaf was gone. It’s time of life-giving was over. But it hung on long enough for me love it, to be taught by it, and to remember the Grace it gave me this Lent.