Wisdom and Autumn
Autumn is my favorite time of year. I need only invite you to walk down my street to show you why. My neighbor took this stunning photo. This scene can be viewed immediately as I go down my front steps and walk to the left.
The strange thing about the beauty of autumn is that the leaves are actually dying. Their chlorophyll, which allows them to absorb the sun and keep their green color, breaks down in the autumn so that they no longer absorb the nutrients of the sun. So, the way I see it, when these leaves lose something of such importance to them as chlorophyll, their depleted situation brings out who they really are (so to speak). Their “true colors” show. I find this phenomenon worthy of pondering.
Wyndham has lost nearly every physical ability, most recently the ability to speak. His brain does not connect to his nerves properly. His metaphorical “chlorophyll” has broken down. It has been a long time since he could move his arms, hands, feet, or legs. Swallowing is harder, and all the physical attributes that kept him “green” are gone. Especially now, his true colors are displayed.
What are those true colors? The ability to love. To laugh. To be grateful. To be cheerful. To be faithful. To be courageous. No one can take these away. A couple of weeks ago one of our daughters asked him how he was feeling with all this continual loss, especially the ability to communicate. He, with difficulty and with several tries responded, “I think of what I can do.”
What he can do is those things I mentioned above. Love. Joy. Gratitude. Faith. Nothing, and no one, can steal these. In fact, just like the gradual decline of chlorophyll in the leaves, who he really is shines even more brilliantly. Just like the leaves outside of our home.
I have asked myself many times since I became a Christian over fifty years ago how I would handle losing the things I most valued. It’s extremely hard to slowly lose my beloved husband, but each time I come away with the same answers. The truly worthwhile “belongings” are the connections of love. And love comes from God, for God is love. When we have God, we have everything.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).
If you live below the equator, where it is spring instead of fall, or you don’t experience seasons, please enjoy the beautiful foliage vicariously through these pictures. And, meditate on what we have in Christ. Even if our various sources of security and joy are gone (as in the leave’s chlorophyll), we have been given everything we need in Christ. Perhaps it is in our losses and deficiencies, where Christ can most brilliantly be displayed. How brilliant is your display? The leaves will fall and will be raked away; but, like us, leaves are not gone forever if the trees’ branches remain connected to the life source. They will come to life once again. Such is the hope of eternal life.
the garden is spent
having given its all.
Cucumber vines lie exhausted on the ground
Tomato plants list to one side
Cornstalks stand dignified and empty
Sunflower faces droop earthward,
shades of their former selves.
All that has not been claimed lies moldering in the dirt—
a bruised tomato, a forsaken pepper…
a misshapen pumpkin, a trampled stalk of beans.
What came from the earth is returning
to the place from whence it came.
There is an intimacy here,
in the fall garden,
gazing at living things in their demise.
I want to avert my eyes, avoid this tender grief.
Is this life or is this death? I cannot tell.
Ah, but there is beauty here
amid all this death and dying.
To have given one’s self fully
at least once
that is the thing.
To have spent oneself in an explosion of color
to have offered one’s body for food,
one’s very soul for nourishment…
It is an unseemly generosity,
beauty of another kind.
the garden says, “This is my life, given for you.”
And we are fed.
Poem by Ruth Haley Barton, 2012.