One Lone Leaf

I’m sitting in my car at Lake Alpine. It’s cold and blustery, winter white all around, but the sun shines in my car window giving warmth and hope for spring days. I’m nosed up to the dock, the same dock from which I was baptized nearly a decade ago. It feels like a familiar place, like a grandma’s home full of family surrounding a big Sunday dinner. I only imagine this since I don’t know how that is, but here in this place with a dock jutted out into a frozen lake I’m feeling familiar, even known, a bit nostalgic.

A hawk floats on the wind above me, circles back, crosses the sky, then turns back again. Out in the center of the lake a woman stands as if walking on water. Then I notice her legs move one in front of the other with a subtle “swish, swish” and I realize it’s her skis cutting through the lake’s snowed topping. It seems it takes only subtle effort to push herself along as if somewhere before she got a little shove to set her going. Now all she needs is to continue the movement, just a little glide and she crosses that lake so smooth and quiet, almost as if she was meant to be there all along.

I have a notebook in my lap, a place to keep thoughts and memories, the unknowns I try to make known. I think back over the years since being laid back in these waters and I wonder what’s wrong with me. Am I so dense? So thick-headed? Or is it stubbornness, a holding on to the Me that I was, the only Me I know; the Me I so stubbornly cling to?

I feel I should be further now. I should be like those surrounding me on Sunday mornings full of love and praise, comfort and joy. Why aren’t I more like them? I want to be like them. I long to have this Christian thing down. I long to love and give grace, to forgive. I long to know my Savior, His character and His will. I long for all these things but they elude me, maybe even evade me it seems sometimes.

I often feel I’m no different than I was back then all wet and spitting lake water that dripped down my nose, the hem of my shirt. It was so much warmer then; so green and lush, trees full and ripe with Hope, wildflowers speckled white and yellow here and there.

But, now.

Now I strain towards all these things I can’t seem to grasp, can’t seem to do, can’t seem to Be and my heart hurts. I feel ashamed and less than. Weak. Always trying, and trying again. I just want to be okay. I just want to Be.

Something catches the corner of my eye prying me from my thoughts, saving me from my self scorning and there along the shore is a stand of skinny trees with clusters of long-dead leaves still clinging to its branches. What an odd sight that is, all those dead things hanging on to a living thing. How tough they must be, how tight they must grasp, tiny tendons of their summer before still buried deep into the limbs of a life merely dormant and waiting. Anticipating.

Once again my eye catches movement. Out on the end of one tender limb about a dozen lifeless leaves hang down slack as if straining for the earth, as if begging to let go. In the midst of them one, just one lone leaf flutters in the breeze. Just one leaf dares to move like a pirouetting ballerina twisting and turning this way and that, spinning around and around in a dizzying show.

How odd this is, I ponder. Why just that one leaf? How can that be? How does it spin and flutter though its neighbors stay still as death? Can the breeze be focused in such a narrow flue? Is that one lone leaf lighter or heavier, bigger or smaller? How is it this leaf moves like a joy-filled dancer amid its sleepy, sagging audience? The breeze calms and the leaf falls silent for a moment. Just a moment. It’s then I notice its shape, the tiny furls along its edges when it lifts up into an unseen current and begins to bob and sway once again.

I think back to childhood years along the western coast and the white boat sails speckled on the ocean. I remember one boat sitting stone still out in the calm water while a handful of others swish by this way and that. That’s when it comes to me that that leaf is like the sail of a boat, its face and furls turned in such a way as to catch this winter wind. It’s not that that one leaf is any different from any of its cousins. What’s different is its shape and its position. That one leaf is available, inviting. Due to its mere nature that one leaf could no more hang still than a woman could walk on water. Its own unique presence suggests, “Here I am. Use me.”

In its dancing in the wind that leaf is nearly alive again. In the leaf’s movement, the breeze became visible. In that dance they both became more than what they uniquely were. Together they became something else entirely, a different thing, another experience. Together they became more.

It occurs to me then that our relationship with God is much the same. It occurs to me that we have to make our selves present in such a way as to be moved by the Spirit. We have to make our Selves open and receiving, usable, pliable, changeable. Simply put, we must be available.

(Simply put, Bren, it’s not about what you can or cannot do, but what He will do.)

We have to align ourselves with the workings of what we can not see in order to be made alive again. Otherwise, we’re just a boat in the dead calm of day no matter the season. Stale. Stagnant. Unmovable and unchanging. I realize all my workings and tryings, all my prayings and pleadings are like spinning my wheels, like rowing to a distant shore in the midst of a stormy sea while an anchor deep in bedrock holds me firmly in place. What a futile thing. What a tiring, defeating thing.

And there, again, is that hawk, floating about the sky so gracefully, with such ease. He hovers there not by the beating of wings, but by simply Be-ing, effortless, open and ready. Even he had to wait for the wind to fly.

. . .but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31