But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
-2 Corinthians 3:16-18
It's no secret that I find spiritual value in paying attention to the shifting seasons. When we become disconnected from God's creation, we miss opportunities for growth with Jesus that the natural world illuminates. So although summer can be hard to leave, I'm eager to experience the coming fall. With it will be a crispness the air, a bit more consistency in all of our schedules, and a changing of the greenery around us into many stages of vibrant earth tones.
I was walking downtown recently to a coffee shop meeting (walking to meetings is THE best), when a tree planted just off of main street caught my eye. It was an American sycamore, and it's easily recognizable for one reason: it's constantly shedding layers with each new season. You could see a pile of thin peelings of various colors right at the base of the tree. I grabbed a small chip and put it in my wallet. One could notice the sycamore and suggest that it is in a constant state of "the old being gone, because the new has come." Kind of sounds like something I read somewhere...
The Apostle Paul wrote that when people come toward Jesus, God peels back layers that stand in the way of freedom and true connection with the transformative, living Spirit of God.
So that means that we are probably intended to be layer-shedding people all our lives. And good grief do we ever have layers. Layers upon layers upon layers. The old onion has got nothing on the human heart.
We have layers of self-protection that inhibit us from being authentic with others.
We have layers of pride and layers of prejudice that keep us from compassionately welcoming others in.
We have layers of religious assumptions and obligations that steal the joy and freedom Jesus is constantly trying to offer us.
We have layers of destructive attitudes and actions that we aren't managing very well on our own.
We have layers of American values that push us to view money, comfort, and visible success as the foundations of the good life.
We have layers covering our raw sorrow that has been unable to be expressed.
We have layers. And Jesus is in the business of helping us shed them.
For growth and movement to happen, we need God to lead us into new seasons. We need a divine act of layer peeling. And that will only occur in fullness when our eyes and hearts are directed toward Jesus at our center (are we sounding like a broken record yet, friends?)
I love that when we contemplate Jesus, more and more gets peeled away and we experience more of what our true and free selves are. At the same time, that process also makes us look more and more like Jesus himself. Isn't that beautiful? The peeling back that leads to our truest identity also leads to Jesus. That's what it means to be an image-bearer of the divine.
Perhaps the coming changing of the season is an opportunity for you to acknowledge the peelings that are already lying around at your feet. Where has God been helping you shed layers? Or perhaps the upcoming fall is an opportunity for you discern what God wants to peel away next, helping you see Jesus in all his glory and love, to transform you through that grace.
I'm hoping to remember all this as we approach the cooler weather. Like always, I'll be reminding my kids and my cross country team to remember layers so that they can shed them when they are ready to run freely. Lord, do that for us too.
Jesus, we trust you to remove anything that gets in the way of experiencing you fully, so that we might live transformed.
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