The trees are getting naked around here.
The trees: companions in my neighborhood, definers of the landscape, manifestations of God’s goodness, creativity, and strength. Towering oaks, maples, aspens, birch, all tucked between the pines. These wide-reaching wonders now expose their bark, limbs and brownish cores. Orange-tan leaves that once defined them, now cover the ground and create a crunch underfoot.
It’s a stripping.
And, a great modeling of love.
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your strength.
Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.
– Deuteronomy 6:5
Radical discipleship demands a bold love from me, from you. God seems to expect the giving back of our whole selves to the Source—the One who made us in Love’s image.
Half-hearted giving won’t cut it, it seems.
I may not have leaves to drop but I am called to strip, to give God all that covers myself: masks, moods, fears, anything ugly that gets in the way of me being true.
This, I keep thinking, is what it means to give God our all; to love God with my whole heart, soul and strength: I need to get naked like those trees. I need to expose what’s been hidden, I need be vulnerable and honest with myself and you, with God.
It’s a self-awareness that allows me to keep standing still and weather the cold and then possibly sprout some new buds after long, hard, dormant days. Loving like this allows God to transform me, make me into a better lover, to refresh and change me. I suspect I will be better on the other side of loving like this.
The thing is, this love hurts, it’s agonizing. I am not so sure I want to reveal my core. I don’t know if I can allow parts of myself to decay, to drop to the ground like the leaves. Is it ever easy to let go of what was once who we are? My masks and fashions, influenced the impressions others have had of me, after all. What will you make of me once you see me naked?
Yet, stripping is a teacher. The work of transformative love like this is a training. I can accept more easily (possibly) that if a fierce ice or wind breaks me down, it will be a sacrifice I’m ready for. A stripping of self has allowed me to be ready for more selfless sacrifice.
So I am doing it, I am dropping my leaves. Learning how to love with all that I am.
— Julia Walsh, FSPA, is a writer and speaker and contributor to Sick Pilgrim. She writes for numerous publications and blogs at www.messyjesusbusiness.com.