Second Glances, Second Chances
It was an ordinary morning in late May, when most of the spring blooms had already come and nearly gone. I stood at the bay window at the back of the house, letting the spotty stream of morning sun bathe and warm my bare toes.
As I stood, I began to notice the towering tree in the backyard with new eyes. It was a broken, leaning, lopsided tree, and it looked as if the next strong wind might tear it to the ground. But, that morning, I blinked and I saw what my eyes must have been missing for days—the tree had sprouted teardrop-shaped leaves as large as melons, flashes of vibrant green against the sky, and it was clothed in bright white flowers.
“Wow,” I muttered, that deep ache of instinct pushing the breath from my lungs.
“That tree is so beautiful.”
Pale petals dotted the yard, and each whisper of the breeze swept more from those branches like fallen petal rain. It was a Catalpa tree, and it was in full bloom.
My husband, who stood washing dishes at the sink, chimed in:
“And you thought it was dead.”
His words struck me, because they were true—I had thought that tree was dead.
I had assumed there was no way that tree could be alive, much less so stunningly beautiful.
And as I savored that moment, as I stuck around at the window, watching the breeze rustle those large leaves and set them waving in front of the splendid sun, I learned in a new way what it must mean to be alive.
To be really, authentically, and honestly alive.
All winter long, for those first few cold, lifeless months in this old house, I had looked out those same windows—or caught a glimpse while I romped through the yard, put down the shades, or looked up at the sky—and assumed that leaning, broken tree was dead.
It was ugly. It was fractured. It was bent over and stooped.
All of its branches dove toward the ground, evidence of its long history with gravity. The branches were scraggly and twisted, and too many were missing.
It’s not the same thing as thriving. It’s not synonymous with sprouting, budding, or blooming. Of course, to sprout leaves, to shoot buds to bloom flowers are all signs of life. But they are signs that only point to one season of this life.
To be alive—in its purest, truest sense—means to keep on existing.
To continue to breathe. To persist. To try. To be. It means to weather the winters, the deserts, and the storms and to emerge on the other side, having been made more beautiful than before.
That leaning tree in our backyard wore the deep, thick scars of life—of fighting for life—over and over, year after year, winter after winter, storm after storm.
And I had mistaken those scars for defeat, for lack of beauty, and for death.
Rather than recognizing them as a beautiful garment—an evidence of struggle, but a testament to life.
As simple as it may seem, my misperception of that tree spurred wonder in me. How many days had I wasted in unbelief? How many days had I wavered, doubted, or threatened to forget the simple beauty that can be unearthed with a change in season?
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
I’m learning, slowly, that even on the days that feel like our lowest, even in our most broken moments, our storms, and our failures—we are no less alive, and we are no less beautiful. When our branches are weathered and torn—in those seasons of pruning, of scarcity, of stillness, of barrenness—the beauty may feel obscured, but it’s not gone.
The beauty is there in the waiting, it’s there in the scars.
And it’s there in full because even the simple state of our aliveness is beautiful. It’s in our breath, in the secret ways that roots and shoots and leaves wind and whisper together in their mystical, biological dance. The beauty is in the truth that we were formed and fashioned with purpose.
Our lives have a purpose in every season—scars and all.
The beauty is in our very being, and sometimes, all it takes is a second glance—or, a second chance—to remember it.
Meg is a writer rooted in her hometown of St. Louis, MO. Though for most of her life she had prepared for a career in medicine, Meg dropped out of medical school when she realized she couldn’t shake her passions to reach people relationally, to use her words to make an impact, and to live a smaller, more “ordinary” family-centered life as a wife and someday-mother. Meg writes most about the themes that have colored her life thus far—ongoing struggle with chronic illness, marriage, resilience, faith, calling—always striving to unearth the beauty we often neglect to see.