I recently hired some guys to come do a full day of clearing on our property. We have just over an acre of land, most of which is kind of wild and untamed and overgrown. And we like it that way. But every once in awhile, it needs to be cut back and cleaned up. We had a few areas in particular that were problematic. Lots of brown palm fronds hanging lifelessly from trees. Two dead trees — one in a prominent location in the front and one in a prominent location in the back. And then there were the weeds, the stumps, and the overgrown grasses that will all become fire hazards as the weather warms up.

I was reluctant to let them cut down the dead trees because . . . well . . . what was it going to look like with them gone?

But they assured me. The dead stuff had to go.

As the guys descended with their power equipment, branches began flying furiously. And after a full day’s work, things looked differently. When you get rid of the brown, the green is much more prominent. When you cut down large dead trees, you can see things that were previously hidden. When you pull up stumps and brittle bushes, the landscape you were used to is altered.

It’s weird at first. I was so used to that big dead tree blocking the gazebo. And then it was gone. And I could see things I couldn’t see before.

I gritted my teeth and wrote a big check and handed it to the guys and I walked the property and looked at what remained. Now that all the dead was gone. And it was surprising. I thought I would hate how it all looked, but the truth is, it felt like parts of our property could breathe again.

What’s true of the yard is true in our lives, too. We let the weeds and the half-dead and the fire hazards hang on. Because we’re used to them. Because we don’t know what will be left if we hack away what we know. It’s scary, isn’t it. I get it. It’s scary to let go of the things that are threatening our aliveness. Because, for many of us, our aliveness is scarier still.

Who will we be if we were fully flourishing? Who would we be if we let go? Who would we be if we let the dead things die so that new life — true life — could be reborn?

Uncertainty sucks. We might have to tolerate loss. We might have to wait for regrowth. We might have to navigate fear. As an anxious person, this is so very hard for me. I would often rather live with the known, even if it is not working, than step toward the unknown.

But here is the inconvenient truth: God will not leave me alone.

God whispers in my ear,

It’s OK to let the dead trees go. It’s OK to pull them up from their roots and carry them off. It’s OK to bring in power tools and prune what’s brown and withered and no longer thriving. It’s OK to let something die in order for something truer and freer to be reborn.

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you

-David Whyte

God keeps tapping on my soul and telling me it’s time to expand. Expansion isn’t notoriety or fame or upward mobility or success. Expansion is fully inhabiting me. Expansion is allowing the fully saturated me out into the world. Expansion is ruthlessly confronting what is not working and allowing it to die (allowing it to be crucified) so that what is true can breathe. Expansion is being honest about the too-small spaces in my life and what needs to be cut back so that growth can occur.

There is more inside you than you realize. More desire. More creativity. More wonder. More resilience. More power. More hope. More beauty. More breath. More brazen. There is more of all of it than you realize. May we have the courage to find the you and the me that is hiding and bring him or her out into the light. May we have the courage to cut away what is keeping us down, keeping us small, keeping us confined. And may we trust that God’s invitations for growth are always, and I mean always, rooted in love.  



Here is the entire poem from David Whyte (excerpted above) that you might reflect on in your next 20 Minutes of Soul Time.
“When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
It’s time to go into the night
where the dark has eyes
to recognize its own.
It’s time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you
can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will make a home for you tonight.
The night
will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing. You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.”
-David Whyte

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