Let Go of Your Leaves

Weather patterns around the globe have been a little off-kilter. One noticeable effect is that deciduous trees with short-lived leaves (think maples) didn’t all faithfully shed their foliage over the winter. Why not? They either got too cold or too hot.

Normally, as days shorten, trees go through abscission. The process of abscission is responsible for changes in leaf color and leaf detachment. Nutrients are drawn away from leaves to other parts of the tree, and cells seal the base of leaf stems, basically pushing off the leaves.

It’s supposed to happen that way. But if a sudden cold spell instantly kills the leaves, an abscission zone (or separation zone) doesn’t have time to develop, and dead leaves stay attached. Or if temps stay warm for too long, abscission never starts. The leaves will eventually die of old age, but because their stems weren’t sealed, most leaves won’t drop until fresh buds push them off — potentially months later than usual.

Thankfully, trees aren’t hurt by these detours from the norm; they’ll still see new growth in due season. (The only impact is people’s confusion when they see an odd blend of shriveled autumn brown and lush summer green!)

Human hearts, however, are vulnerable to damage from the unexpected. Variations outside of “normal” change can tempt us to cling to something (whether bad or good) instead of letting go when we should.

On one hand, we might face a deep freeze — a broken relationship, losing a loved one, unemployment, chronic illness, or forced relocation (to name only a few of the burdens our world has carried this past year). Any kind of grief or trauma can make us instinctively hold tighter to what we have left or idolize memories. When that happens, we don’t make room for healing and new chapters.

On the other hand, we might be too warm, too comfortable — everything is going well, so why rock the boat. Whether we’re just complacent or are afraid of growth, we might hang onto things (tangible or intangible) longer than is wise or healthy. When that happens, we stagnate.

The solution? Learn to let go of your leaves. The Bible tells us that everything has a season. If you’re in a cold snap, remember that hanging onto dead leaves won’t bring new life. Be open to hope and receiving help. And if you’re in a heat wave, remember that hanging onto dead leaves doesn’t leave room for new opportunities. Be open to change and giving help.

Let go.

“See [your life] for the fathomless mystery that it is,” wrote Christian author Frederick Buechner. “In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

For a deeper look, read The Seasons of God and listen to our broadcast “How Positive Words Can Change Your Life.”