Why does the leaf fall?
The wind? That’s a good start but not the answer I’m going for.
Because it served its time as a tool to collect sunlight, and now its time is over? Still not deep enough. Go further back.
Because the leaf grew? Now you’re getting somewhere.
Because the tree grew? Closer.
Because another tree produced a seed, which fell to the ground, which was collected by a squirrel and buried somewhere else, which grew into a tree, which, after years of living and experiencing many seasons, produced this leaf, which also grew old and is now falling? Almost there.
Well, I say almost, but that might be a little generous.
The leaf doesn’t fall on its own because without every rock, every other tree, including the tree from which it fell, every animal, every gust of wind, and the fact that our spinning globe is why the wind blows at all, the leaf couldn’t fall it because it probably wouldn’t exist.
Insane odds had to be overcome in order for that leaf to fall.
And it all traces back to the real answer: the leaf fell because “in the beginning God…”
Of course you might go back further than that. Because since God spoke the creation into existence, there must have been a thought, to carry the personification further. And before there was a thought, there must have been silence.
You are a leaf, falling through the universe – not as an isolated, drifting individual bit of soft, organic matter, but a complex member of a network, a body, of everything.
While we are individuals, our isolation is an illusion, for we are members of something greater than ourselves. Paul calls this the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12. We have all been called for a purpose, and, regardless of what our specific calling is, we are a necessary member of the body of Christ.
Yes, we are like leaves falling from a tree, or like vapor that appears for a little while and vanishes away, but we are also so much more than that because of this great belonging.
Things that happen to you don’t just happen to you just as when you stub your toe, the whole body feels it. In high school, one cheesy line that went around was “when she gets cut, he bleeds.” But I think there is more truth to that than one might think, or at least there ought to be. Because as Christians, we are to bear with one another, confess our faults to one another, and pray to one another.
This confession and accountability isn’t an opportunity to shame; instead, it is an admission that what we do as individuals is more than just what we do, just like what happens to you doesn’t just happen to you. Because everything is connected.
Our “little sins” matter, but our “little efforts” matter as well. When we pray, when we sing, when we pick up litter, when we tell someone we care – these little actions make a big impact because they are ways of participating in the healing that God is bringing to the world through the gospel, and every little bit is good.
As we observe this leaf, drifting, falling, and landing on the forest floor where thousands of other leaves have fallen, consider how much effort, how much energy, and how much time went into that leaf getting to where it now rests. What a miracle!
There are choices you are making now, or not making now, that will have a profound impact on the world around you. James said that the tongue is like a little fire that can set the whole forest ablaze, which means it can work in the other direction as well. You CAN make a difference. You CAN bring about change around you.
Shake off the shackles of this severe individualism we have inherited, and embrace the fact that you are part of something greater than yourself. Take your place in the body and allow God to work through you.