When we were in seminary at Candler we talked about growing edges. I came to understand my growing edges as practices that no longer served me well. Saying or doing these practiced things that now were getting in the way of seeing the world differently, of being in the world differently. One of my growing edges is a belief I (somehow beyond all odds) continue to hold dearly is: “what’s true for somebody else, is (should, ought to be) true for me.” And each time, each time, each time I am surprised to learn that this just ain’t true. And lately, I’ve been surprised. Again.
Yesterday’s Epiphany manifestation presented itself in this message: I am not a pine tree.
My father worked one job at the First National Bank in Mattoon for his entire professional life. My maternal grandfather worked his whole life for CIPS ( Power Company as lineman); my paternal grandfather was a lawyer in Groton and most of it was as city attorney; Aunt Sis was a 9th grade algebra teacher at Waterford High.
I grew up thinking I would have one career, one job that I would do my entire professional life. It would have a beginning, a middle and after a measured amount of time there would be an ending. Straight and true. Just like a tall, Georgia pine tree.
I am not a pine tree.
After exercising at the YMCA yesterday, I planted myself by a big, ole window. I was letting my heart catch up and stretching a bit. And just outside the window, there was this beautiful, old oak tree. Lying there and stretching, my eyes followed the branches up and out to the tree tips. And I was given a beautiful gift: I am not a pine tree.
As I stretched and breathed deeper and deeper, I imagined my life instead, as that oak. Solid, strong trunk rooted deeply in the ground reaching up to the sky. As my eyes followed the limbs branching out and up from the trunk, I was reminded of the branches in my life. All those times I thought I knew what I was doing/where I was going – and always, always something shifted and changed. For example, I truly thought when I went away to college after graduation I would come back to Mattoon and settle down, raise a family and teach PE for 30 years.
And here I sit in our home in Decatur, Georgia as Linda’s life-partner, a mother of two strapping and kind young men, ordained in the UCC and serving as a hospice chaplain. I am not a pine tree.
Spring is coming. Even now in the first week of February there are signs of spring. These brave, fearless daffodils remind us each year that we, too can hold strong and hold on. We too, can hope ourselves into something miraculous and beautiful. We, too can bloom where we are planted. How strong they are to push up and through the cold, dark ground and reach beyond what was before.
Stretching at the Y I was reminded that my journey isn’t my father’s or aunt’s. My course certainly has not been predictable. I, too was given strong and deep roots. My trunk is strong and for me, there are meandering branches. Limbs stretching up and over and through. I’ve felt the winter winds bow and so far I’ve been OK. I was not born to be a pine tree, God had something different in mind for me. And stretching at the Y, I whispered a great, deep, tearful prayer of thanks.
Working as a Hospice Chaplain, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.