March 01, 2013 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
"Springing Back to Life"
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I live, we recently received eight inches of wet, heavy snow. The local radio station referred to this type of snow as “heart attack” snow because of the risk that comes from shoveling such heavy snow. While I am happy to report that I did not hear of any people suffering a heart attack related to the snowfall, the news was not so good for trees in our area. I unfortunately heard many reports and saw many photographs of trees whose branches had broken under the weight of the heavy snow.
We have many evergreen trees in our yard and so we were especially worried about how the heavy snowfall might damage these trees. During the storm, my wife and I slogged our way outside through the snow with brooms in hand to brush and shake off the limbs that were quickly becoming weighted down with the heavy snow. We found that there was something almost magical about this experience of shaking off the beautiful, but heavy snow. The magic was not so much to be found in the beauty of the freshly fallen snow, but rather in the joy of “freeing” each snowbound tree branch. I could almost hear each branch groaning under the weight of the snow, and then in the instant that the snow was removed, I could imagine the branch shouting, “Thank you” as it sprang back to its natural position.
A couple of months ago I was struggling with a new project that I was creating. I was stuck. I wasn't sure which direction to go and the longer my indecision went on, the more I began to second guess myself. Like the trees in my yard this week, I was weighed down and not feeling very resilient. I was fortunate at that moment to have a couple of close friends and colleagues reach out to me and offer some much needed encouragement, along with some helpful feedback. It was amazing what a difference their words and gestures made. It was as if they had come by with their brooms and knocked all the snow off my branches. Suddenly I was springing back to life, and saying, “Thank you” to my friends.
It seems that you and I are a lot like trees in that we, too, can find ourselves overwhelmed and weighed down, especially when life has dumped some heaving things on us. A recent loss causes a person to feel alone and isolated--but just then a thoughtful call or visit from a friend helps them come back to life. A child comes home from a bad day at school, obviously burdened by what happened that day. Fortunately they are welcomed home by a kind, patient parent who creates a safe space for the child to talk about what happened. After the talk, the child begins to spring back to life. A person acknowledges his or her wrong-doing and takes full responsibility for hurting someone they love, and suddenly the relationship begins to spring back to life.
And to paraphrase what Jesus said: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will brush the snow off your branches.”
Who do you know that needs a loving word or gesture from you which could help them shake off what life has dumped on them? Who do you know that has been through a recent storm and is feeling especially burdened right now? Are you willing to put on our boots, get out your broom, and do what it takes to help? I hope so, because there is nothing quite like the magic of helping another living creature--whether it be a person or a tree--spring back to life.
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