One Solitary Leaf
It was the middle of summer one morning at daybreak when I just happened to see a flash of a leaf falling from high up in a huge oak tree. With little or no wind I watched as the leaf seemed to bounce around in the atmosphere on its way to the ground. As I walked along, my path intersected a few feet away from where the leaf finally landed. It was not a dead leaf and it was not a leaf that had changed colors for fall. It was a green leaf that appeared to me to be healthy, but now it was all alone, detached from the tree and lying on the ground. I passed on by going on my early morning walk, but I was still thinking about that one solitary leaf.
Among other questions that crossed my mind I was wondering why this leaf let go on this morning. Setting aside all of the biological jargon of what causes a leaf to be attached to a tree, I thought about how much this leaf had been through over the past few weeks. It did not let go then and so why now? We had experienced strong winds and rains in the neighborhood, and after all of that why did the leaf let go on that morning?
The reason that bothered me was because I have wondered the same thing about the saints of God. What combination of things happens in us that we give up, lose faith and our hearts melt? I have watched as people have gone through life’s trials with incredible troubles all around them and with pressures both from within and from without which would seemingly crush a soul, but they held on and stood strong. Then when everything seemed to be going smoothly and for no apparent reason, at least to those who watched and maybe even to them as they experienced it, they just let go.
I have seen folks do that with church and their outward expression of walking with God. I have seen them do it with their job. For whatever reason, they let go and walk away. I have seen them do it with their marriage. They quietly crash after everything from crying to complaining, to counseling to commitment. Why then? Those are questions about areas of life which I am convinced cannot be answered because the answers cannot be found. But like the falling of the early morning leaf, often there is little that can be done to stop us from just letting go if that is what we choose to do.
I looked back at the tree. There must have been tens of thousands of leaves covering that big oak, but only one solitary leaf fell that morning. I do not know if anything or how much could have been done by the other thousands of leaves to avoid that moment. I certainly am aware that in the faith world and among believers we are able and encouraged to bear one another’s burdens and to reach out to a brother or sister, a friend or neighbor and help them to hold on. But I also recognize that at best we still may not know what is going on in someone’s heart, down deep in their thought life and in the inner atmosphere that may exist of despair, dread and loneliness. So in a moment when it is least expected, they let go, give up and almost float away from all of us.
In retrospect, all of us want to cry out to the leaf and explain how extremely valuable one solitary leaf is. If it was not for one leaf, no tree would be covered with leaves. While the one leaf may seem small and could argue it is insignificant to the tree, it would be wrong. For that one is needed both to help bring nourishment to the tree and enable the tree to produce future life. The one little leaf falling could not see that and it gave up.
There is an argument that I can make and I think that I could even win in explaining to a dad how important he is to his children and his wife. I could argue with a mom who thinks that she is not making a difference that she of all people is desperately needed. I could talk to a grandparent who may feel that the important days of life have gone by and the relationships now are few and insignificant. Wrong! I could remind the workman who feels useless and worthless because he does not have a job at the moment that he is still a person of great value.
Now if by chance you feel like that one solitary leaf, my encouragement to you is don’t feel that way for it is untrue. Don’t let go because you are still needed. Don’t become detached for you can both give and receive in the relationship. In the words of the great Apostle Paul in the magnificent resurrection chapter, I Corinthians 15, he concludes it by saying, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (vs. 58).