The leaves have all fallen off of the trees. Well, most of the leaves. It happens every year when fall transitions into winter. Sometimes the seasonal transformation takes place in one night. All it takes is one storm and the trees are beaten bare.
The departure of fall always catches me by surprise and makes me a little sad. Bare branches look sickly without their leafy covering. I always miss the golden hues and lush foliage. Without the colors of fall the landscape looks gray. The world is draped in gloom when vibrant shades of red and orange aren't painted on the tress.
When the foliage fades into crumbled piles of leaves all shriveled up and devoid of color, I miss fall's colorful display of beauty. I've never liked the look of sticks without leaves. To me the bare branches have never been worthy of the name "beautiful." Until this year.
This year fall faded into winter so suddenly I don't even remember hearing the winds whip and I don't recall a single storm. One day I woke up and it seemed that the whole earth had been transformed into a palate of gray, lifeless branches. The only remaining remnants of foliage were scattered across lawns, destined to be bagged or burned or turned into someone's compost.
When I first looked at the bare branches I saw nothing but a lifeless silhouette and the memory of departed beauty. But then I looked closer and I saw something else. I saw leaves.
There were just a few of them and they were crumbled up and brown but they were still stuck to the branches. They were still hanging on.
In those hardy leaves that would not let go of their branch I saw the beauty of persevering. On the surface it might not look beautiful. Persevering can be ravaging. Like the leaves that endured the storm, the one who perseveres might look a little worse for wear, beaten to a pulp and weakened by the storm. But look closer. There is beauty in the determination to hang on and endure. There is determination and a will that is awe-inspiring.
The bare branches of winter have taught me how to see unexpected beauty in all sorts of places. Not just in nature, but in my own life, too. Like the leaves, I have been ravaged and beaten to a pulp. My life has been through storms that have stripped me of everything I once considered beautiful. From my appearance to the vitality and fullness of life I once enjoyed, so much has been snatched away from me in the winds of disease and sickness. I am bare, shriveled up and devoid of color.
But I am still hanging on. I am still enduring. And I am still beautiful.
You see, what I see in those branches is what God sees in me. He looks at me and He sees that I am still remaining sure and secured in Him. I have not been blown away. I may have lost my color and my physical health but I have not lost my faith. I am still attached to my life-blood and my salvation. Although my body has taken a beating and is worse for the wear, my spirit is still full of life. I am still enduring and in the eyes of God that is truly beautiful.
No matter the storm or the severity of life's winter, as long as I remain attached to God and one with Christ I will always remain beautiful. United with my Savior I can be bare and beaten, ravaged and ruined, and still I can endure by the power of His cross and the indwelling of His Spirit. And I can always and forever be truly, eternally beautiful.