What a Cracked Tree Limb Taught Me About Change

Aug 23, 2016

Life Lessons Change Surrender Nature Self-Acceptance
view of tree trunk and leaves from below

When it’s 11:23 pm and you are listening to a bible study sermon online, taking notes about how sin grieves the heart of God, and a tree limb outside your 3rd-floor apartment window cracks and splits off the trunk onto the roof of a car port in the parking lot, you begin to pay attention. I’m a believer in signs, in symbolism and metaphors, in the universe sending us messages that we desperately need to hear. What message does a tree limb breaking off send? It’s certainly open to interpretation, but for me it means it’s time to let go of something that no longer serves me. Something that is beginning to weaken at the root.

More often than not, the desire to change something in our life leads us to pursue the new behavior, habit, belief, etc. In that process we forget another crucial aspect of change — letting go of the old. No matter how badly the thing we want to change is destroying us, we have a hard time letting it go. There is an intimate attachment we have formed to it; it is familiar. Anything new will feel foreign.

We must make space for the grieving that goes along with change without parking there. And with this comes surrender, which for me is simply acknowledging what I am not capable of handling and giving it over to God. Surrender can be beautiful if done willingly and with grace. No amount of sheer will and persistence can lead to lasting change without surrendering the people, places, and pieces that don’t serve us in our desire to grow.

If you are looking to change any area of your life, ask yourself — what is it I need to let go of? What do I need to surrender to truly change?

Like Rumi says,

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

What barriers have you built against change? Against full acceptance of yourself? This is an area of continual trial-and-error for me. But I’m learning that we don’t come to self-acceptance through effort and toil and discipline, but rather through letting go of all the ways we do not accept ourselves. Letting go of judgment, criticism, shame, expectation, perfection, and fear.

The tree cutters came the next day to trim the broken branch. They not only removed that branch, but began pruning the entire tree, cutting off more limbs. I saw the pruning directly in front of me outside my window. I kept thinking, ‘no stop, that’s enough, not that one too!’ What looked to me like perfectly healthy branches were sawed off, falling to their fate 25 feet below. The pruners raked the broken chunks of wood and dried leaves up and drove away, and the parking lot fell into a silence I had forgotten existed before they came.

Change is painful. It will require pieces of you you’re not ready to let go of yet. Parts that to you look perfectly healthy, but that are rotting on the inside. Sometimes it’s not enough to shake off the dead leaves; sometimes we must cut off an entire branch. Pruning is just as much about saving that which is flourishing than it is about removing what is withering.

There must be a part of that tree that is thankful for the chance at new life. Grateful it no longer has to carry the weight of decay on its shoulders. It will feel the wind differently for the first time in a long time. And the cycle of death and rebirth continues. As Marianne Williamson says, “and so it is.”