The Sacrificial Leaf

 by Lori Wildenberg

It would be easy to miss the small number of yellow leaves scattered among all the green leaves in the mangrove. But our captain made certain to point them out.

My daughter, Courtney, and I were on an Eco-Cruise while on a family vacation in the Florida Keys. Our boat launched from the north side of Islamorada. This Key is situated between the Everglades National Park and the deep blue waters of the Florida Strait. The Atlantic was to our south, while the gulf waters lapped the north shore.

The saline or brackish water near the shoreline is home to the mangrove forests, a type of tropical or subtropical vegetation. Mangroves, along with sea grass beds and coral reefs, create a system that keeps the coastal zones healthy while providing habitat for a variety of species.

The green mangrove forests look like shrubs on stilts. They randomly and plentifully pop out of the water. By design, they support each other.  Their tangled dense roots allow the trees to hold firm to the muddy soil during the daily rise and fall of the tides.  

A variety of birds like brown pelicans, blue herons, and great egrets nest in among the mangrove forest. Many other species of birds depend on the mangroves for their seasonal migration. The mangrove system provides shelter to a wide range of living creatures from deer to honey bees.

The forests stabilize the shoreline, prevent erosion, protect the land, filter nutrients and pollutants from storm water, and reduce the chances of flooding. Our boat hugged the shoreline and slid through the narrow channels created by the mangroves.  We moved effortlessly through the backcountry shallow waters and pockets of mini-islands created by mangrove trees and shrubs.

While cruising the bay, we saw lots of tropical birds, plants, and a few crabs. The intricate and strong root system was the first thing I noticed about the mangroves. However, the thing that made the biggest impact was the smallest thing we saw, the thing our Captain pointed out. “Notice the yellow leaves. They have a specific and special purpose. There is one yellow leaf on each tree. These leaves are an integral part of each mangrove tree’s salt filtration system.”

According to our guide, this leaf soaks up the salt water the plant’s roots take in. This absorption allows the tree to survive, even thrive. That one leaf makes the difference between life and death of the mangrove tree. Its sole purpose is to take on the salt and die so the rest of the tree can live.

It is appropriately called the sacrificial leaf.

God often uses nature to reflect His glory and to draw us to Himself. The Lord wants to be known and wants us to know His son. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20 NIV).

I have shared the story of the sacrificial leaf many times since Courtney and I took that Eco Cruise. I thank God for the sacrifice His Son made for me while he hung on a tree. Jesus sucked up all my salty sin so I could live.

Jesus, like the sacrificial leaf, sacrificed his life for me, my family, and for you. He died for me; I will live for Him.

Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Helping families create connections that last a lifetime is Lori Wildenberg’s passion. Lori, wife, mom of 4 plus 3 more, and Mimi, shares her stories of failures and successes to encourage and equip parents. The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connectionsis Lori’s fifth and most recently published book. As a national speaker and licensed parent and family educator, she leads the Moms Together Facebook group and co-hosts the Moms Together Podcast. For more information or to connect with Lori go to .

Join the conversation: What does the sacrifice of Jesus mean to you?


2 thoughts on “The Sacrificial Leaf

  1. Oh, Lori. Such a beautiful blog. I love how God places symbols of His redemption within His creation. I had never heard of this one. Thank you!


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