When was the last time you asked God to speak to you? To give you wisdom? Direction? Encouragement? Or even correction?
He speaks to me a lot through His Creation. And often trees have played a big part. This year, this Fall, I’m hearing that it’s time to let go of some things, just like the trees let go of their leaves when the time is right.
Not that I intend to strip my house bare of items we need to live, but there are some things that we’ve been holding on to that we could do without.
Beyond the physical items, there are more important things I need to let go of: negative emotions, unmet expectations, anger, regret, hurts, disappointments. These take up even more space in my life and have a greater impact on it.
How do you let go of past hurts and unmet expectations? Unproductive attitudes and unresolved anger?
It starts with identifying them.
Set aside time to think about and write down where your mind goes along those lines and how strong your emotional response is to those things. Make up a scale 1 – 5 and give each item a number according to how much it bothers you. These are your leaves. If you want you can cut them apart so that each issue/leaf has its own slip of paper.
Thinking about it, put a YES or NO by each one indicating whether or not there is something you can realistically do about the issue.
Next write down what action you can take that may lead towards resolving the issue for you. Praying is sometimes the only thing that comes to mind and is always a good step especially if you’re unsure how to move forward. I realize knowing what you can do and wanting to do it are two different things.
On a separate paper, start another list. These will be your branches. If you indicated a YES, write down any lesson you’ve learned about the issue – like what hasn’t worked in the past and what you’re willing to try or do about the issue now.
If you indicated NO, write down something you’ve learned – a lesson so you don’t make the same mistake again, something you can do that will help you move forward beyond it, a way you can change your perspective so that it’s no longer so emotionally charged or even some unexpected good that has come out of it.
Here’s an example of a Leaf. My kids moved far away to take a job they needed and it was my expectation they would always live close and I am disappointed, heartbroken. Because I love them and it affects my ability to be with them there is a very strong emotional cost. 5 out of 5. No, I cannot change this.
And a Branch. Lesson learned: always show my love and appreciation while loved ones are near. And what can I do? Learn new ways to show my love and stay connected now: FaceTime, Zoom calls, care packages of food or gifts or just small items that say “I care,” cards, actual letters they can read, reading the same book or watching the same movie and then talking about it together, praying for them or even with them over the phone.
If you are the tree, the negative emotional issue is the leaf. The branch that the leaf is attached to is either something you can do about it, or some lesson you’ve learned in dealing with the issue.
You can let go of the leaf – the hurt, the unmet expectation, the disappointment, the regret. But you keep the branch – the lesson you learned, or the action you will take. And the branch will continue to grow and bear fruit in the future.
To complete this Leaf exercise, gather your leaves, and taking one leaf at a time, read it out loud asking God to bless you as you name it and the negative response connected to this issue, and then let go of it, dropping it into a leaf bag to dispose of.
As you drop the leaf, thank God for any lesson you’ve learned from the situation and ask for the strength to take the steps you’ve written on your branch for that leaf.
Bag up your leaves and put them in the trash!
Now take a walk. Ask God to speak to you through His Creation. Notice the trees, the wildlife, the sky whatever is around you that He’s made.
Ask him if there’s anything He wants to say to you personally about your life, your circumstances, your relationships, your attitude, or your behavior.
Ask Him to silence all other voices in your head that come from your own thoughts or from the world or from any source other than God.
And then open your eyes and your ears and your spirit to God alone.
When we listen…God speaks!