Hold up a leaf and tell the story of it’s life cycle. If possible bring different colours and sizes.
(this life cycle outline is adapted from harryhelmet.com)
The leaf is “born” when it begins growing on a branch of a tree in springtime. Every leaf acts as a food manufacturing machine for the tree, drinking in water, sunlight, and air to give nourishment to its host. In return, the tree produces chlorophyll, which gives most leaves their greenish colour.
But with the arrival of autumn comes shorter days, which cuts down on the amount of sunlight needed by the leaves to make food. In response, the tree begins conserving its resources in order to make it through the cold winter ahead. As the tree “seals” itself against the elements by cutting off nutrients to its leaves, the leaves revert to their natural orange, brown, and yellow hues before eventually detaching from the tree entirely.
Here is where humans can come in to the life cycle of a leaf – by gathering them up and putting them into a compost bin and adding fresh food scraps and other biodegradable substances. To aid the composting process, the leaves should be turned and sifted periodically and if they become dry, the leaves should be sprayed with water.
Naturally-occurring bacteria create compost. Over a few months, the leaves are transformed into a mulch that is rich in nutrients. When added to regular soil, mulch supports the growth of new plants, shrubs, and trees.
But what would happen if the leaves decided they weren’t budging? They didn’t like change, they liked the view from up there in the tree. They would be clinging to a life source that could no longer sustain them. And they would be missing out on the opportunity to have a new meaning and purpose to their lives.
Change is hard. Letting go of the familiar is difficult. But when we believe in a God of infinite love we can let go knowing that He will catch us. In fact the main difference between us and the leaf, is that we never need let go of God no matter the season – he is a life source who can always sustain us. ‘The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever.’
If we think about it in relation to our own lives, when we let go of things that don’t bring joy or of things that move us further from God – maybe gossip or resentment or shame or unforgiveness towards ourselves or another – it’s a wonderful thing, but it also means that there is a new space in our lives to be filled. What will we fill it with? The truth is, we often fill empty spaces with old bad habits or with useless hoarded stuff. So when we let go, let’s notice the space the letting go has left and intentionally leave it open to be filled by God’s grace.
As we move towards Christmas, that is a question we can ask ourselves again and again, everytime there is a gap in our schedule – what will I do with this space? And I invite you to offer it to God to fill, so you are open to seasons of change and possibility instead of clinging to what is comfortable and familiar.