The Cycle of Life
After five long days of worrying about and caring for my three sick children, I have finally begun to see the sun shine again. My heart warmed this morning as my children awoke, ready to take on the day. My furrowed brow began to relax as I observed their renewed energy. And so it was, even after falling several days behind in my work, that I found it necessary to get out into the sunshine myself and to breathe in fresh breezes for renewal. I loaded up an enthusiastic Scratch into the van and we headed a few miles out to a nearby equestrian and nature center. It is a beautiful piece of land: rolling hills, trails through the woods, a pond, gardens, and lots of fresh air.
I let Scratch lead the way as we walked the hills and entered the forest trails. Except for the blue sky and the bright sunshine, it seemed to me that everything else was still locked in shades of winter grays and browns. Beauty was still to be found, but very little color.
Then we entered a part of the woods that was not beautiful at all. All around were piles of brush and timber – almost like a clearcut. I found it very disturbing. I kept reminding myself that the people responsible for this land are people who love nature, who know conservation, and who want the best for the land. Even so, I found it unsettling to see all around me sights like this one.
I began brainstorming possible reasons for the clearing. Maybe there had been some disease or insect infestation in the trees and they had to act drastically for the health of the land. Maybe they were clearing out brush and older trees to lessen the likelihood of an out-of-control forest fire. Maybe this was just the first stage of a multi-stage plan for the renewal of the area. Maybe I would come back next time to discover new trees and new plants being introduced.
After exploring several of the trails, we intersected with a new trail – the guided trail. All along this path you could find small signs, teaching you the names of plants or pointing out some unique land formation. As we made our way along the path, I saw yet another pile of wood and brush ahead. This one had its own sign.
I drew closer, and this is what I read:
And so it was as I had hoped! This was planned and, in some strange way, for the benefit and health of the land. Certain phrases on the sign jumped out at me – phrases like “releasing nutrients from the dead wood” and “decay is a necessary part of the cycle of life.”
I realized that God uses all kinds of means to speak to us. We usually just miss it because we don’t really listen very well. God was using my walk, my natural surroundings, and these odd sounding phrases to spur me on to explore what I feel happening in my own life and spirit. Not long ago, I wrote about what I felt my work for Lent involved this year: clearing out.
Those piles of wood, brush, and debris are unsettling to me in part because they look so much like the clutter – physical, mental, and spiritual – that dot my own life’s landscape. They are ugly. They displace beauty. They interrupt peace. They are startling reminders that all is not in order.
What a novel idea that they may indeed exist for my own benefit, my own health. The clearing out is a painful, but necessary process to reach wholeness. There may actually be nutrients hidden away in my life’s dead wood, waiting to be broken down and released for my own nourishment. This decay is a necessary part of the cycle of life – my cycle of life.
I am encouraged by this. As I work through the clutter of my life, both internal and external, piling up and hauling away all that seems to be trash, I can know that it is necessary work. I can know that while what I am hauling away may look like trash, it is not, in fact, waste. Even it holds within it nutrients – lessons learned, experience gained, friendships formed, maturity achieved – all that nourish both my present and my future.
And perhaps most encouraging of all? It is part of the cycle of life. That means that this time of uncertainty and doubt, this time of overwhelming tasks, this time of questions and challenges will all pass. It is the first stage of a multi-stage plan from renewal. Promise is on the horizon. While all may look dull and gray, spring and the new life it brings is right around the corner.