It's been cold. And snowy; and wet; and icy. All of the conditions that make me not particularly excited about going outside. My dog, Blitzen, on the other hand, thinks this is the perfect weather for playing. (Yes, I'm sure his name doesn't help the fact. I'm starting to think I should have named him Sunshine or some other summery-sounding name.) Blitzen doesn't seem to mind that our backyard is like a giant sheet of ice that sends him slipping, sliding and sprawling. He doesn't care that I have to make an effort just to keep my balance; at times, forcefully pushing into the snow/ice mixture to try to get some sort of grounding for myself. Blitzen is fascinated by all of the changes that have taken place outside and loves exploring them.
Blitzen particularly loves the tall evergreen tree that sits at the border between our property and that of our neighbor's. He loves to run underneath it and then wildly run back out. But a few days ago when the storm first began, he was quick to notice that the tree was different. It's branches were frozen and rigid instead of soft and pliable. In order to prevent myself from falling due to Blitzen's constant tugging at the leash, I too had to get close to the tree, and as I looked closer, I discovered something interesting. While the outer parts of the branches were frozen solid, the branches closest to the trunk retained their life and vitality.
I couldn't help but draw a parallel to our lives with God as I observed this tree. When we are exposed to the world and the fierceness of the storm going on it and all around us, it is so easy for us to become frozen and cold, and in a lot of ways, dead. This is why we need to stay connected to Jesus -- for the parts of us that stay closest to God stay alive and vital despite the storm. As I reflected on this, I was reminded of Jesus' words in John 15:5 which say: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
Jesus is the vine -- or in this case, the trunk of the tree. Oftentimes, we are busy spreading our branches and spreading our influence on our own. We want to see how far we can get -- we keep stretching and stretching and forget that the most vital part of us is not how far outward we can grow, but how deeply we can take root. Winter is a good reminder of this.