Friday, August 10, 2018

The Beauty of a Leaf

I’ve been anxious to return to the park.  This park, like many parks, has become my morning sanctuary.  The weather wasn’t too hot.  There was rain in the forecast but only occasionally the clouds spit some rain.  I was ready.
It was my first round.  I felt a little out of sync.  Even though I have continued to log many miles in my race for health and wellness, I haven’t been to the park for months.  I saw a familiar face in the distance.  A faithful dog walker who always greeted me.  Then another dog walker who usually doesn't, but today, perhaps because I hadn’t been seen for months, she greeted me.  It was good to be in the park.
Something caught my eye.  I was listening to a podcast to feed my soul.  But there it was, lying on the ground.  It was a leaf.  A heart shaped leaf that had fallen to the ground.  It was badly damaged.  It spoke to me immediately.  I thought of how many times I’ve asked how many times a heart can be broken until it exists no more.
I continued to walk.  I marveled at the bluffs.  I’ve seen them so many times and yet their majesty always awakens me.  I know the river is there.  It is flowing but I can’t see it.  But it is there.  I imagine it is low right now, but I have also seen it flowing so high that I could see it from the walking path.  Someday I will walk a trail and stand on the banks.  But not today.
Soon I was the only one walking.  The town employee who comes every morning was gone.  The dog walkers had gone on with their day.  I was alone with my thoughts and the beauty of the park.
The podcast was perfect for this morning.  I was listening to John O’Donohue speak of beauty.   It was powerful, profound, and gave me much to ponder.  I had now passed that leaf four times.  I had seen it each time.  I had looked at the tree that had born that leaf.  I’m not sure what kind of tree it is but I think it might be the Eastern Redbud.  In the spring, I’ll see if it blooms.  It is the only one like it that I’ve seen in the park.

At one point, I pondered why we draw a heart shape that way.  It really isn’t shaped like a biological heart.  Yet everyone knows a heart when they see it.  As I took my fourth turn I stopped.  I felt compelled to pick up that leaf.  I did.  I held it.  I listened for it to speak to me.  It did.
The leaf was not complete.  It looked as if some thing had taken a bite out of it.  It was brown around the bite and discolored.  There was green peaking through but much of the leaf was yellow or brown.  It had become disconnected from the tree, it’s source of life.  Yet, there it was, in my hand.

I looked at the leaf and it said, this is your heart.  Your heart has been so bruised and damaged.  The pain you’ve endured is real.  Others can’t see it.  Some don’t care.  But the damage is there.  And it’s real. 
I held it and thought, my heart needs care.  My heart needs softness.  My heart needs to be seen.  My heart still has beauty. 

I took the leaf home.  I will save it.  I will cherish it.  It reminds me that even though my heart has damage and may never be whole, God loves me.  He will pick me up and care for me.  It was an important sermon in an early morning sanctuary.