It was downright bone-chilling again this morning when I went out to start my car, to the end that it would be warmed-up enough to ward off rigor mortis on the drive to church.
But stiff wasn’t going to be the problem today. Sticky would be.
You see, a good-sized maple tree spreads its fulsome branches over our driveway. Lacking a garage (the house was built around 1820-ish, and there is an off-plumb shed/garage around back that probably once stored Little House on the Prairie style relics), our cars are subject to all kinds of droppings from above. Snow, rain, bird excretions, maple twirlies – you can imagine the array of items that regularly populate the driveway and impinge on our chariot exteriors.
This morning, the snow and ice was pretty much melted. But the door handle, and everything else on the car, was coated with tacky splatters of sap.
At various points during the year, due to inscrutable combinations of weather conditions, the aforementioned tree, like a dog fresh out of a stream, shakes its many branches and ejects droplets of maple stickiness. Like French toast on a Sunday morning, our cars wait on the breakfast plate of the driveway, drizzled in syrup. Oh, Sap!
Now, mind you, the tree has its winter look about it. No leaves. Barren and lifeless, to all appearances. But behind that facade is a messy mystery – sap continues to flow, and to find its release at times both predictable and seemingly random.
In usual fashion this morning, I greeted the event with a sardonic snarl. Yes, a car wash can fix the problem – but it’s just going to start dripping again! But then, pulling out to head to church, it dawned on me – that was life dripping down on my car. What appeared, to all intents and purposes, to be dormant was actually percolating with the stuff of life, and (however annoyingly), was sharing it with the world.
I called to mind the words of Jesus, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” As I have felt in myself of late, those tree branches were in a phase of dormant dryness, seemingly fruitless – but they were still connected to the trunk, and the root, and the sap of life was still flowing through them. In season, they would bud once again.
This fall, I took a piece of dead wood, and inscribed on it with marker a reminder to myself not to stare introspectively within, where it is far easier to see deadness than life. I need to look to the One who gives life freely and abundantly, and, when in the soul’s winter, remember that in the mess is a mystery – the sap is doing its quiet work. I need to strive less, and rest more, giving the sap free reign to flow. This dry branch will yet bear fruit.
Tomorrow, the new year begins in earnest. All my plans, all my goals, all my hopes – all of it needs a glorious, messy, life-giving dose of sap! Perhaps the name of my marketing blog (StickyFigure) will take on a whole new meaning in 2009…!