I didn’t hear it and it would have been easy to miss it completely with everything else there is to see. A single leaf falling from the tree. I dont know if an animal had knocked it off, or if a wind gust had brought it down. It caught my attention, despite the other leaves on the ground because July is not the time for falling leaves, it is summer!
It silently floated down, gently swaying back and forth as it fell until it finally landed on the ground beneath. There on the ground, it will eventually die because it is no longer connected to the branch and tree that brought it life. Did the other leaves notice it’s absence? Did the branch feel it detach? Did the tree feel a piece of itself die?
I am reminded in John 15 of Jesus’s words:
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. John 15:4-6
Without disciple, it is easy to slip away from the relationship we have with Christ due to the busyness of life, the distractions of the world, and the competing interests for our attention. One day passes and turns into two, and then a week, and then we find that months have passed and our relationship with God has faded into the background. We find ourselves with our backs against the wall and needing His help. We call out to Him and He answers, but we could have avoided the situation all together if we had just abided with Him continually.
There was nothing I could have done to reattach the leaf to the tree. Maybe with some careful tending on the front side its attachment to the branch could have been strengthened and it would not have fallen prematurely. As a body of believers, we need to take notice not only of our own relationship with God but also of others that we have fellowship with. We are not responsible for other’s relationships with God, but we can help encourage them and point them back if they are beginning to go off track.
I think about my own walk with God. As a child, I was “gung-ho for Jesus.” I didn’t quiet understand relationship, but those around me really helped build a strong foundation of knowledge in the Word and God’s love for me. I loved to share about Jesus. I would tell anyone who would listen about Bible stories or sing songs that I had learned. I didn’t do a lot of things that other kids did, not because someone told me I couldn’t but because I didn’t want to disappoint God.
As a teenager, I got really off track. I went from every time the doors opened being a participant at church to hit and miss attendance, to out completely. Looking back, I wonder why those same people who had poured into me as a child had not reached out in love to help get me back on track. One or two might have reached out once or twice, likely met with a resistant rebellion that teenagers develop. Why did no one take the time to at least try to persistently intervene? I don’t put my backsliding on them, it was my decisions that took me down the path I traveled. I just wonder what might have happened if someone had taken time to notice and to the time to really reach me.
I think about how many people walk into a church searching. Maybe they don’t know what they are searching for, or ultimately Who, but they come. Do we take time to notice and try to ask what might happen to them if we don’t engage them? Or people who stay on the edge and never connect. Do we take time to notice and try to connect with them? Or how many people are faithfully attending, and then start missing, and then disappear all together. Do we take time to notice and reach out to pull them back in?
What if we really noticed those around us? If we truly saw the expression on their face and connected on what had been going on that day before they came. If we noticed the heaviness they seem to carry and asked and really listened. If we noticed their absence and let them know they were missed.
Could we help carry the load that is taking them down? What if in their problems we pointed them back to God? Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 A gentle reminder that they are not in it alone and that God truly cares where they are.
Or what if, we allowed ourselves to be inconvenienced and entered where they are with compassion and grace. Showing them that they are not alone and that not only does God care, but as a brother or sister in Christ, we do also. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
What if we didn’t just allow ourselves to be inconvenienced in the moment but that we took time moving forward to check in when God lays someone on our heart? Or if we followed up when we didn’t see someone? Just to reach out and let them know “I noticed.” What if we took time, regularly to just notice? Not asking about someone, but reaching out to someone.
That act of noticing and reaching out, could be God’s way of intervening. It might be to relieve some of the burden that others carry. Even if it is just dispelling the lie that no one cares. It might pull us into service to meet a need that we are able to meet. It might be a divine appointment. It might make a divine connection. Regardless it is a divine commandment. When we take time to notice where others are at, we can share in their burden and help them give it to God.