It seems easy. The leaf spiraling toward the ground, I mean. It drifts from a branch someplace above. Perhaps billowing slightly in a puff of air, shifting to the left and right, rocking, but mostly floating downward. I can chart its progress. Erratic but graceful. Slow but progressing. Perhaps it comes as a solo traveler, or as part of a shower shook free in a mass rustling. Regardless of how it comes, my impulse is always the same.
I want to catch it.
I run beneath the trees, starting for one leaf and then changing my mind and leaping for another. Always, at the last possible moment, the leaf slips past my fingertips. As though pulled by an invisible string, it floats within inches and then leaps out of reach. I try for another one. Both hands grasp as though tackling a football. I feel a leaf bounce off my head. My hands are still empty.
“It’s deceptively hard,” I call to a friend.
She laughs, and in reply, starts pulling leaves from the sky as though plucking them from a bush.
So maybe it’s just me that struggles with this inane activity. Perhaps I’m just not quick enough to close my fist when the leaf hits my palm. Perhaps I rely too much on calculated visual trajectory rather than impulse each time the leaf scoots just out of reach. Or perhaps, and I know this may be hard to believe, but perhaps I overthink my leaf-catching technique.
Toward the end of my excursion, I finally capture a leaf. It’s not a particularly handsome leaf. It’s small and brown and rather tattered. The edges fray even as it is held, fluttering, in my hand. But it is mine. I take a picture.
There are days I feel a bit like that leaf. Floating on what appears to be a gentle current only to be suddenly swept this way or that. My energy is gone. My edges are tattered and frayed. I’ve lost my grip and leaped out into the great unknown.
In those moments I am grateful that it is not someone like me standing under the tree. As I chart my course, I’m not counting on human quickness or visual trajectory to guide me. I am counting on the steady hand of God. There is nothing I can do that will surprise Him. There is nothing I can do to slip from His grasp or bounce off His fingertips. Even when I feel like I am free-falling, His hands are beneath me. His timing is perfect. He will catch me at the perfect moment. He who formed me will not let me fall.
That’s a promise worth hanging on to.
Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate programs for Purdue University’s College of Engineering and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org.