People often say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves.
Last January we had to have two of our Douglas fir trees cut down. One of our neighbors had alerted us that the trees were failing as they could see the crown of the trees in ways that were not visible to us from our property.
We thought that we had asked our arborist about those same trees a year ago but in checking our records it had been more like two or three years.
A quick call was made and the arborist confirmed our neighbors suspicions: laminated root rot had taken hold and these trees had to come down.
In order to take the one hundred and forty foot trees down we asked another neighbor for permission to use their yard as a staging area. They granted us use of their yard and we set the date.
The first attempt was made on a gusty day and the man who went up to begin the work had to call it off as the sway of the tree proved to be too severe.
With the next attempt everything worked like clockwork and as each section fell to the ground the earth shook with a huge thud.
Taking the advice of our arborist we left twenty foot snags as wildlife habitat. Almost immediately Pileated woodpeckers and flickers began to go to work on the trees such that one year later the snags are pock-marked with holes.
In all honesty it wasn’t the most beautifying choice but we chose to think of the snags as totem poles erected to support some small bit of nature on our small bit of property.
In each of our lives there are moments when something is called to our attention. Perhaps it is: an annoying habit; the tendency to be late; the practice of procrastination; the way we lean into anxiety and make it worse; the rush to anger and judgment when disappointed; the way we ignore of our physical need for exercise and healthy eating . . . you can fill in the blank.
And if we determine that our lives would indeed be more grace-filled if we attended to our habit or our tendency, it still may take years before we actually do something about any of it.
As a church community we offer one another the opportunity to be known, to be seen in the context of our human complexity, and to know that God dwells with and in us.
We especially affirm this truth as we move from the celebration of Christmas to the season of Epiphany where wise ones follow the light of a star and seek treasure in unexpected places.
And perhaps it is that that same bit of light that urged the wise ones to leave their familiar territory still shines and calls us forward as well.