My desk looks out over the majestic sycamore tree which has offered much-needed shade in the vicarage garden during the exceptionally hot summer, even keeping a patch of grass green while the rest of the lawn was burnt by the scorching sun. This old tree has also blessed me with a suitable bough from which to hang the best birthday present ever: a Cacoon hanging chair. My dad bought it on impulse having no idea that I had longed for something similar for years. (I’m the most impossible person to buy presents for so this was a triumph!) If you come to the quiet garden on a dry day you might just get the chance to ‘hang out’ in it too. On one quiet day, while curled up inside, a lady heard God’s gentle whisper: “Rest in me.” She accepted the invitation and went to sleep!
By contrast, for me, the majority of the summer has been anything but restful. It has been a time of turmoil and change; too much going on to find time, inclination or inspiration to blog. However, following a series of events, some long and difficult conversations, and being given the opportunity, once again, to act upon a sense of being called to pioneering ministry, I am now coming to rest. I am learning, I hope, what it means to be given a yoke that is easy to bear and a burden that is light.
This has involved letting go of a lot of things – both life-giving and energy-sapping – and letting people down. It has involved saying, “No,” more often than I have ever had the courage to do before.
Yet I am realising that as I relinquish the need to be seen to be doing something useful and bravely refuse to accept other people’s visions and expectations for my life – some of them excellent but not for me, at least not in this season – I am opening myself up to thoughts and visions beyond human or worldly understanding. In ‘letting go’ I am discovering anew what it means to ‘let God’.
Of course there is nothing really new in this discovery: the invitation to let go of our small earthly lives and worldly visions in order to find true life and transformed vision is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching. If you are in any doubt about the wisdom of his teaching then just look at Jesus’ own dying and then rising!
The inner work of letting go is also reflected in God’s wisdom on display in the turning of the earthly seasons. Again my eyes turn to the sycamore: it has begun to let go of its once life-giving, nourishing leaves. As I watch this natural surrendering of all that is no longer necessary I notice and wonder:
As the leaves let go from the branch they fall and come to rest
– will we trust that it is only in letting go and falling that we can find true rest?
As some leaves twist and turn, spiraling down to the earth which waits to welcome them
– what in our lives, once life giving and nourishing, is dying? Will we trust that if we allow these dying parts to fall, the ground of our being will welcome them?
As other leaves float gracefully, caught on an invisible gentle breeze
– will we trust the often invisible work of the Spirit and allow God to gently carry us as we fall?
As other leaves don’t fall far before coming to rest on other branches or even in other trees
– will we accept that it is ok to let go in stages?
Whatever our situations, the wonderful thing is that, ‘In the falling of the leaves is the feeding of the roots.’1
If only we would trust that letting go and falling is the wisdom of God?! Maybe then we would discover that relinquishment and endings prove to be the fertile soil into which new things are planted and from which new beginnings can grow. That is certainly my hope this autumn.
1 Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel of the Year: Celtic and Christian Seasonal Prayers, 2007, p.190.