A few weeks back I stood at the grave of a friend at Anderson Memorial Park, close to I-69. It was a brisk, early fall, day; clear, sunny, a bit chilly and beautiful. At the end of my prayer for the family, I looked over the heads of those there to the tops of the trees in the park. They were already starting to change color. Just the tops, as if a giant paint brush had just barely swept over the trees in that area. I remembered then I was told, for some reason, the trees in Memorial Park often turn first. No one is sure why. Maybe it’s the cool breeze that seems to be present there, maybe it’s the type of trees that grow there. For whatever reason, there it was: an orange-topped tree reminding me, as I listened to the bugle and stood in a cemetery, that it is often through stress, cold, “change of season”, and yes – death, that our true colors are revealed.
In winter, it takes a lot of energy for a tree to keep leaves green (making chlorophyll) AND on the tree. Lack of sunshine and water during the cold months prods the tree to “make some choices” about what to keep and what to let go. As the green pigment dissipates, other colors are suddenly revealed, before the leaf drops of completely…some say these are the tree’s TRUE COLORS.
I’ll speak only for myself now. I believe that we, like trees, are going to show our “true colors” when our seasons change, when stress/winter comes, when the things that have supported our life are suddenly, or little-by-little, gone – we become who we truly are.
There, in Memorial Park, it was easy to compare a life that had been housed in a fragile body to that of a tree that had been green all summer – but now, with the passing of body that LIFE was its real self because the body had died.
Here, in my office, I’m thinking about what I learn and teach as an Advocate for God. The Spirit, the words of Jesus, and the example of those wise men and women who have taught and written over the centuries are all saying, “to gain your life, you must lose it” and “to find yourself, you must die to self”. These are difficult lessons to understand, much less practice – but I think they are necessary. I believe there is so much of us that has been put on us since birth in this world, and so much struggle to maintain the shell of our bodies which surround our souls, that it is difficult for us to see what our Father originally designed us to be; our “true colors”.
Jesus talks a lot about “giving up” to “gain”. But what a person “gives up” isn’t theirs to begin with, and when Jesus compares our lives (and His) to a seed that must die in the ground to become a tree – isn’t that the entire purpose of the seed? Isn’t it our purpose to be the essence of who we are designed to be, and not all the insecurities, influences, self-motivated injuries, and world-expectations we seem to collect and cover ourselves with?
What is MY “chlorophyll”? It is my ego. Ego isn’t always bad, it’s just not truly who I am…it is self-identity (which is false), a paradigm built up by what I’ve experienced (which is inaccurate) and a persona built by the voices of those around me and THEIR expectations of me (which is deceptive). If I could get rid of all that, would my “true colors” – the colors I was painted when created – be revealed?
I think the answer is, “yes”. We see it whenever a friend is at the “end of their rope”. Suddenly some things just don’t matter anymore. I see it on sick beds, I see it when someone has experienced a sudden and tragic loss. I see it when everything is lost: house, home, finances, love…it seems that when stress (cold) and lack of vision (sunshine) are combined with a new chapter of life (season) a person’s TRUE COLORS are revealed. Sometimes the colors aren’t so pretty. Sometimes they are – it’s what we call “character”.
How then do I live? I’ve found that each week and day I should assess what I cling to. Is it a “thing” (souvenirs and knick-knacks that hold memories), a “belief” (a philosophy or teaching that may not be exactly true or healthy – OR WORSE, something that keeps me from re-examining what I believe is true), a “person” (I need all the friends I can get, and I want to be able to act-in-love to everyone – but to surround myself with, and listen to, certain people is like taking poison a little at a time – you know it’s true)? Next, I remind myself that my worth is only defined by the fact that God loves me and calls me by name.
Yes, I have work to do. Yes, I have things I probably need to hold on to – but these are the things, beliefs, and persons that help me let go; the outside influences that encourage me to be the original, immortal being God first imagined and designed
I don’t know exactly who that person is right now, but I’m learning. The reason I assess and practice all this NOW is because I’d rather not wait until I come to the end of my rope to let go. I’d rather not be hit with the cold wind and lack of sun that reveal my true colors.
As you can tell, I was a philosophy minor in college. But I truly believe that most of what we do for Jesus is “peel back” and “uncover” and “let go”. I believe our true selves, like the autumn colors in Anderson, start at the top, at the head and heart, and gradually reveal themselves throughout our entire beings – when we “die to self.”
Maybe the trees in Memorial Park turn first because in that place God wants to remind us something. My friend Dick, whose grave I stood beside as I listened to TAPS, is in that forever home now. He is seeing what, I like to believe, is the New Earth as it was originally designed and created. And maybe it’s just me, but I think the trees in there are gold, orange and red…I think he sees that place as Eternal Autumn…
…because I believe everything, and everyone shows their true colors there.