I hope all of you had a relaxing and safe holiday weekend. My husband and I spent most of the time in our apartment, but we did go out for a nice walk at our local park on Saturday. As we were walking around the beautiful water and enjoying the views of our local nature, my husband asked me why some trees shed their bark.
My first response was to give him a look and remind him again that my background is not in trees. I have a degree in tiny things, atoms, molecules, etc. But then I laughed and said, "You know what? I will look that up for you. I will find out why some trees shed their bark."
And here we are.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of different kinds of trees that shed their bark for a number of reasons, and they are not all fully understood. So I decided to focus on the type of tree we saw. I am fairly confident (looking it up a day after I saw the tree) that we were looking at a birch tree. Something like this one:
First of all, this shedding of the bark is called exfoliating. It is extremely similar to how we exfoliate our faces! There is older bark/skin on the outside, but there is newer fresher bark/skin underneath, so we get rid of the older bark/skin.
For trees this has a number of benefits. When trees shed the older bark, they then reveal a thin inner layer of bark that allows a higher amount of gas exchange and transpiration to happen. These trees are able to go through photosynthesis easier and faster which means they have a faster metabolism. With a higher metabolism these trees can then grow BIGGER and FASTER! That old bark is no longer holding it back.
It turns out we are more alike to the trees than I earlier alluded to. It is not only a physical resemblance, but their physical exfoliating is similar to our faith lives.
It’s true. We are just like the trees. We also have this outer layer that is older and holding us back. For us, though, it is not some rough physical layer on the outside of our bodies; it is a layer on our heart and soul.
All of us are who we are because of our past. It has helped us to grow into who we are now, but sometimes we hold on to too much of that past. We use it as a defense mechanism, afraid of change and afraid to let our new selves shine.
But God knows us. He knows the new and the old, the good and the bad. So why are we so defensive towards Him if He already knows everything? Why do we pretend like we can keep those secrets buried under our other layers?
It is in this that we need to learn from the birch trees. We need to shed those defenses. We need to shed that outer skin so that we can grow. It is when we remove the old and share our inner self with God that our relationship can begin to grow even faster! His light and His love give us everything we need to grow and change and become the best versions of ourselves. We do ourselves a disservice when we hold on too tightly to the old. We use it as a shield, holding ourselves back from growth and improvement in the most important area of our lives, our relationship with Christ.
What is God asking you to let go of? What parts of your life are you trying to hide from God? It is true that sometimes growth can be painful and difficult, but we must always be striving to grow closer to our God. We must be willing to shed the old. We must be willing to open up to Him with everything we have.
It is scary to be vulnerable, but St. Paul gives us inspiration to be bold and open with God in his second letter to the Corinthians,