The Last Leaf
Let me confess right up front: I spend a lot of worship time at Grace Church looking out of that window over the baptistery. Whoever thought that up was a genius. And that tree! Regardless the season, it's been a delight to behold.
Because we had no real fall, the leaves morphed rapidly into drab brown and began to fall en masse. Each Sunday I watched the leaves disappear, until finally just one lone leaf clung stubbornly to the barren branch. I was rooting for it to survive.
Easter is coming. And nothing — nothing! — can stop it.
The experience reminded me of O. Henry's short story, "The Last Leaf." A young woman, desperately ill, sees in the leaves falling outside her window her own impending death. "When that last leaf falls," she tells her sister, "I will, too."
But the last leaf never falls. Only after she regains her health does the young woman learn that an elderly neighbor has given his own life to paint a leaf on the wall outside her window, hoping she will watch it, take heart, and live.
And that's exactly what happened.
Someone has called January the Monday of the months. There's not much to recommend January...or February either for that matter. Christmas is over. The lights have come down, the trees are barren, and everything is dark. It looks as if the entire world has died. For the next couple of months, the only thing visible outside that baptistery window will be reminders of death.
The year dies. The seasons die. Nature dies. People die. Inevitably, everything dies.
But here's the good news: Come spring, that tree outside our window will again turn green. It will teem with life and beauty and birds and hope. Though dead now, that tree will live again.
Unless something dies, there can be no resurrection. An old year dies, and a new one springs to life. A season dies, and another takes its place. As surely as winter becomes spring, nature will live again.
Easter is coming. And nothing — nothing! — can stop it. With Easter comes the hope of resurrection. It's as if Someone has painted a living leaf outside our window, hoping we will see it, take heart, and live.
But we can't have resurrection without death. We can't have Easter without Good Friday.
Standing outside the grave of his friend Lazarus, Jesus made a remarkable announcement: "I am the resurrection and the life."
Then came the inevitable question: "Do you believe this?"
Do we believe it? It can be hard to affirm resurrection when reality often appears so relentlessly dark and hopeless. But affirmation is an act of the will. We can dwell on the dead, fallen leaves, or we can fix our gaze on that one life-giving leaf and take heart.
This is not all there is.
Just wait 'til spring.
Norma Farthing is a former teacher and administrator who's married to John, a former professor and pastor. They enjoy retirement in Northwest Arkansas, especially being Nana and Poppy to Landon and Layton, reading good books, watching old movies, and cheering for the Duke Blue Devils.