One of the advantages of living in the Midwest is the change of seasons we are privileged to enjoy. The sparkle of winter, the beauty of spring, the fresh fruit of summer, the colors of autumn – what a joy to experience these over and over again. Each season has its beauty, proclaiming – as does the cycle itself – the glory and the promise of God. I saw a map the other day that projected which weeks in September and October one might experience peak fall colors as the leaves on the trees change from green to yellow, orange, red, and brown. A week ago – it was eighty degrees! – this might have seemed premature. But the crisp air outside now tells us that change is coming soon. Experience tells us that it will be glorious.
There is a lesson here for those willing to learn. Change is inevitable; and change can be a beautiful thing. Change is built into our earthly existence. We have no need to fear it. God – who is good and faithful and true – designed our world to be this way. God – who makes roses grow out of cow manure, who brought life out of the horrendous deadly suffering of the cross – knows how to create beautiful, wonderful things out of the worst of circumstances. Fall trees seem to declare their faith in this promise. Waving their bright colors they praise God like cheerleaders with pompoms, the leaves flying around like confetti. Yah, God!
Autumn colors help us to see change as something beautiful. The bare trees of November are another challenge. Our focus is often on what is missing. There are no green leaves, no pretty colored leaves, just bare limbs sticking out of lonely trunks. Yet there is beauty here, too. With the leaves gone, we can see the shape and structure of the tree: full and round, tall and graceful, or short andtangled. We can see strong massive boughs, slender curving branches, innumerable small twigs, the massive system of supportive connections. We can appreciate the tree’s character: knots and stumps, twists and turns, its history, its vulnerability, its strength.
Bare trees tell us that it can be beautiful to let go: to let go of a person, a project, a thing and let it have its own life; to generously let go of our possessions, to be free of their hold on our lives; to let go of problems and responsibilities that are not ours to own; to let go of our anxiety, to trust God to mend whatever is broken and lead us into the future God has planned. Leafless trees challenge us to be vulnerable, to bare it all, to be open, honest, and transparent; to live simply; to stand our ground, tall and straight and proud.
Every season gives us lessons to learn. God never wastes a teachable moment. The challenge is to see the beauty in each season of life, to trust in God’s deliverance and providential love as individuals, as families, and as a people of God. Each season prepares for the next. Today’s thorny issues yield tomorrow’s blossoms. May we trust God to be there through all the challenges and changes and show us the beauty within and around us.