In Contemplation of a Spindly Maple (From Ruth Johnson)

(Because the pandemic caused so many East Coast Conference Women Ministries gatherings to be canceled, the group sent out an appeal to the member churches for devotionals that could be shared with all the East Coast Conference Women Ministries groups. The first one issued comes from our church.)

As maples went, it wasn’t much of a tree. Its spindly trunk not even two inches in diameter, it was crammed in among towering evergreens at the edge of the lawn. With all the competition, it was a wonder that it had gotten as tall as it had. But the developer’s bulldozer had stopped just exactly there, and so it had been exposed to view, barely noticeable most of the year. But just then from my back window it was hard to notice anything else. The pines were a deep, vivid green. Wisping among the boughs like an exotic stairway to heaven, the blazing maple leaves drew my eye up to the deep, cloudless blue above. It was spectacular in the sunlight, but I found that, even in the rain, the leaves seemed to produce their own light. I photo-graphed it but was disappointed; I couldn’t capture an emotion digitally.
Somehow, I resemble that tree. In the crowded forest of my days, life continues pretty routinely – summer, spring, fall – until some event comes and digs away at my roots, ripping up some of my environs, removing some of my neighbors, getting a little too close for comfort, occasionally gashing my bark, wounding me. Later I notice that my view is different. I can see farther and some of my “branches” are in the sun, whereas, before, there was only filtered light. I grow a little stronger, filling out on the newly exposed side.
Shadowed by the pines, my back yard friend has grown tall, but not strong. Its neighbors support it. I can stand, too, supported by those around me. It would be difficult to be alone, on my own. Loved ones fill in the places where I am weak or underdeveloped and help shape my view of the world.
Perhaps, just perhaps, as God looks down on our seasons, his eye delights in the radiant colors, the sudden contrasts of green and gold and vermillion, and the feathery intertwining of our lives as we together lift our heads toward his light.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:3-5, NLT)

  1. Think of a time when your ordinary world got upset by a life event. Were you open about needing help, or did you try to hide it from others?
  2. Who did God use to help support you through that time? How did they do that?
  3. How did you grow spiritually and emotionally from having worked through that situation?
  4. Having been through your experience and, realizing that people generally are shy about revealing what they are struggling with, how do you think God has equipped you to minister? Who needs your support right now?

(Ruth Johnson retired five years ago to be a live-in Grandma to her two school-age grandchildren and to do all the gardening she wants. She has kept her part-time job of 24 years as the Office Manager at the Covenant Church of Thomaston, Connecticut, because it really suits her skills and interests and she loves it. )

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