There are certain elements of the forest that stand out more in the winter than they do in the summer—and the bare branches and trunks of the trees are certainly one of them.
So it was not surprising that this graceful stand of birch caught my attention for the first time yesterday, though I’ve been past it many times before without looking twice. Suddenly I was seeing color where I never had before, now that there were no brilliant greens of summer to distract my eye. Intrigued, I ventured off the trail into knee-deep snow just to get a closer look.
Every tree was so unique in it’s coloring, it was hard to stop with photographing just one. Some were purest white, with soft watercolor-like washes of gray and blush pink. Others were these magnificent sunset shades of vibrant rose and orange, darkening into the richest shades of sepia and burgundy. And all of them detailed with the characteristic black eyes and white dashes, dramatic splits, curls and ringlets of their kind.
Is there anything quite so lovely as the bark of a birch tree as it splits and curls beautifully back to make room for the new growth beneath?I think this is such a magnificent picture of the transformation Christ works in our lives. He gently, but steadily, peels back the layers of sin and selfishness wrapped around our hearts, time after time bringing to light something altogether new, each time a little better than the last, as we grow and stretch and become more and more like Him.
There is no hurry, no impatience, no frustration. Instead, it’s a continual, lifelong process, with the patient, persistent precision of a Master Artist in the midst of a masterpiece. Taking us where we’re at, but always nudging us forward to what He knows we can be, what He intended us to be.
And just like the birch trees, there’s so much beauty in the process. No, it doesn’t always feel like it. Sometimes, all we’re really aware of in the moment is the pain of the breaking and splitting and peeling back of the old self we cling to. Sometimes it may not be until we look back that we realize how we have been changed for the better. But it is always beautiful, if only to those looking on, because we are continually becoming more like Christ.
“…to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)