Missionary statesman and theologian E. Stanley Jones told of browsing in a bookstore and seeing a set of books on a table with a sign reading: SECOND HAND THEOLOGY FOR SALE. Jones said that upon seeing that sign he vowed never...
“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years.’”
“For everything there is a season.”
“They yield their fruit in its season.”
Here in the cool north woods of Minnesota I am meditating on autumn. Even when I left the Arizona desert a few days ago I was already noticing signs of summer fading and autumn ready to make her first appearance. I saw the sun working its way farther and farther south, nights were getting longer and cooler, Halloween filled the stores, and Snowbirds were sighted in the mall. Yes, for everything there is a season.
In the north woods the changing of seasons is more obvious. Hardwood trees are already pulling their energy for the coming cold winter sleep. Their leaves are cutting back on chlorophyll and revealing their true vibrant colors before they surrender and let go. As I watch the seasons change I am thinking that just as there are seasons in nature, so there are seasons of our spiritual life.
God wants us to be mindful of life’s seasons (see today’s Scripture texts). Some seasons are meant for rapid growth and fruitfulness, while others are suited for lying dormant, hibernating, and biding our time. Growth is never uniform, whether in oak trees or spiritual lives. There can be more growth in one season than in all the other seasons combined. But without the solidifying that takes place in the other seasons, the new green growth would be useless.
A chance to sit under an oak tree and meditate stirs in me the following thoughts about autumn:
Autumn exemplifies the paradox of dying and seeding.
Autumn scatters seeds that will bring new life in the spring, but we must hang on through the winter. The long nights and shortened days bear possibilities for seasons yet to come. Beneath the surface of the cold ground, there are amazing things going on invisible to the human eye. We cannot know what loss of a job, a broken relationship, or a shattered dream might bring forth. The daily dyings of autumn are essential for new life in the spring.
Autumn reminds us that life is ever changing.
The leaves still holding on to the branches remind us that everything has a beginning and an end. It is a grace and gift to accept what is, and to embrace the season you are in. Be open to God’s surprises throughout your life, and therefore open to change.
Autumn teaches that nothing is permanent this side of heaven.
Each precious moment is for savoring and for learning what life has to offer. We cherish the beauty of an autumn day, a child’s laughter, a morning walk, precisely because they won’t last forever. Like autumn leaves ready to let go, we are ready to let go whatever binds us, so that we can be ready for God’s new thing.
As I come to the end of my meditation, I am thinking of a prayer we offered up on Friday’s Internet radio program, “The Living Room”. I make this my prayer for today:
God of the seasons, there is a time for everything; there is a time for dying and a time for rising. We need courage to enter into the transformation process.
God of autumn, the trees are saying goodbye to their green, letting go of what has been. We, too, have our moments of surrender, with all their insecurity and risk. Help us to let go when we need to do so.
God of fallen leaves lying in colored patterns on the ground, our lives have their own patterns. As we see the patterns of our own growth, may we learn from them.
God of misty days and harvest moon nights, there is always the dimension of mystery and wonder in our lives. We always need to recognize your power-filled presence. May we gain strength from this.
God of harvest wagons and fields of ripened grain, many gifts of growth lie within the season of our surrender. We must wait for harvest in faith and hope. Grant us patience when we do not see the blessings.
God of geese going south for another season, your wisdom enables us to know what needs to be left behind and what needs to be carried into the future. We yearn for insight and vision.
God of flowers touched with frost and windows wearing white designs, may your love keep our hearts from growing cold in the empty seasons.
God of life, you believe in us, you enrich us, you entrust us with the freedom to choose life. For all this, we are grateful. Amen.
Grace and peace,