Life is lived in seasons. Seasons for weather, seasons for sports and seasons to one’s spiritual life too. Advent sets during the fall, while Easter rises during the spring (at least if you're north of the Equator). And much like the fall, the Advent season reminds us of our fallen man and how God’s Economy was thought out for our salvation.
During this season, we see our fallen leaves and fallen trees needing a Savior, and we are saved from eternal death. One would expect life to be all Spring after salvation, yet for all of us, the seasons still change in our spiritual lives, just as it does in the world outside. Like a tree fighting to stay upright, we still have to get through fall and winter with their storms and blizzards before spring comes again. Many of us can’t stand upright for that long because the storms of life get the best of us.
“A tree always falls where it leans; be careful which way you lean”said The Lorax to the Once-ler as he was about to let his desire for fame and money ruin the green earth and ultimately ruin himself. That’s some good advice for grownups, wrapped in a children’s movie.
The Lorax may have been referring to Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Too many of us live as once-lers in today’s world, running after our self-seeking pleasures forgetting that these pleasures will ultimately lead to our fall.
We are all like a leaning tree in our own way. The problem with leaning is that it is comfortable and requires the least resistance. It provides temporary comfort, or maybe satisfaction, but the prolonged effects are always devastating. My dad would always nudge me whenever he saw me slouching. But slouching was comfortable! It meant that I didn’t have to work as hard to keep my back straight. But my dad knew better.
We should all resist the comfort of “leaning.” For you that could mean an attitude issue, an addiction, apathy, laziness, etc. The larger the tree grows, the more it leans in a specific direction, and then the more effort it takes to make it stand upright again. It will need intervention from outside. God is the natural pure source necessary for survival; He is our Sun, the fresh breath of air and the rich soil. We need Him to grow because the alternative is death.
A leaning tree also needs human help, like a support pole to help the tree grow in the right direction. In that same fashion, God has also provided a support pole to prevent us from leaning in case we lean the wrong way; our beautiful Church and her teachings, along with her various avenues of support, is our pole. The church in her tradition and commandments is our guiding light. In her unconditional love is our mother and role model. With the right resources, the church is a place for healing, for profound theology, fellowship with God and one another, a place for counseling, and most importantly, a place for love.
This advent season, seek God on your own, but also seek Him through the Church. Give her help, and receive help and teaching from her. Lend a hand to the poor on the street, a compassionate thought to the biased boss.
We need to stop going to church, and start living out the Church. If we define the church to be a “group of believers” then her spiritual state has a whole lot to do with our own. We are each other’s support pole. It’s supposed to be the season of gift-giving right?
Let us hold on to God while holding on to each other. Let’s first be like the “tree, which is planted by the streams of water” (Psalm 1:3). Let us support one another emotionally, mentally, and even financially if we have to.
Galatians 6:2 says that we ought to “Bear each other’s burdens.” With that mindset of love, we must use our different spiritual gifts and talents to hold one another upright. Let us all fair out the wintery storm in preparation to receive Christ in His advent while waiting for His birth in our hearts.
The next time you see a leaning tree, don’t just plant a support pole next to it…BE THAT SUPPORT!
Sometimes the last hope for a leaning tree is to be attached to a neighboring one. The Church as Christ has intended her to be, is meant to lean in one direction and one direction only… that is to lean on Christ.