When dying is beautiful

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I wish you could have seen it–the mountains surrounding my home. They were breathtaking (I struggle for a better word) this morning. Golden and rust colored mounds swollen with pigment, giving off the warmest glow. Shafts of light breaking through the sky, illuminating the leaves’ last gasps, their final dying breaths. All this made more powerful by a screen of haze veiling the entire scene—like Moses’ veiled face after spending his 40 days with Yahweh on Mount Sinai.

Above my golden mountains the sky lurked grey with dirty clouds heavy and low. This made the light shafts all the more spectacular, because no where could I find a break in the sky for the sunlight to escape. It was as if the trees were producing their own light, that is how brightly the gold hues shown. But there had to be light, because the folds in the mountains were shadowed, as were the sides not facing east. Still, as I studied the hills, I kept imagining whole sections of trees with roots of electrical cord grown out long and plugging themselves into a magic power source deep within the mountain’s center.

How is it possible, I wonder, that in their dying, the trees become their most beautiful selves?

This is peak color season in the Southeastern Appalachian Mountains. I’m not sure how it happens. Just a few days ago, I was looking out at the hills and seeing only small blobs of yellow and red intermixed with the landscape of green. But now, out my window, I see barely any green at all, only on the lower branches and the sides of the forest where light rarely finds. Some of my trees are already bare—my dogwoods for one—looking so mean without their leaves, stiff and arthritic, pestering me with their grumpy reminder of the cold winter to come.

*******

In these last two weeks—the same weeks that the leaves have entered their golden years—I have been confronted with many sins. My sins. Sins of pride and arrogance. Sins of a haughty attitude and a judgmental heart. Sins of misusing gifts. Mostly I have been going my own way, rushing ahead into situations without seeing through anyone’s eyes but my own, certainly not trusting God enough to take my hands off, keep my mouth shut, or take captive my thoughts.

Each instance—each encounter with my sin—brought me low to the ground. First, the sting of humiliation, then flashes of self-righteousness, demands of self-justification. But none of it could stand against the wreckage of my choices or the power of the Spirit, who faithfully convicted, turning my shoulders back to face the mess—over and over—until I was too tired to turn away anymore. Finally, I crumbled, falling beneath the surface even, where all is quiet and dark, smelling of dirt and metal.

So, I guess like the trees, I’ve been in a season of dying. Dying to sin and laying down what has been so easily entangling me. Pressing on toward his upward call which, strangely, is being best realized and strengthened by this season of rooting down deep, accepting and even embracing my time beneath the surface.

My dying doesn’t feel nearly as beautiful as the trees’ dying looks.

But I wonder if to God, it is.

 

Copyright 2014 Shari Dragovich

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