learning to die well
I love Autumn. I love it for many reasons, but this year in particular, I’ve identified with the dying that autumn shows us in a way I hadn’t recognized in the past. The beauty of autumn is literally in it’s dying. A woman at the library today stopped her car in middle of the road to get out and take photos of the splendor of yellow, orange, and red the trees held in their dying. No one was mad at her for stopping in the middle of the road, we all smiled and stared in wonder as well.
I hope I can die like the trees in Autumn. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who would argue the beauty of the leaves as they “change color”. I delved a little deeper into what’s happening with the leaves in the Fall to make sure I wasn’t leading my kids astray with my simple knowledge, and learned that as chlorophyll stops being produced because of the lack of sunlight, the green color that usually COVERS UP the true color of the leaves lessens so that you eventually see what was underneath all along (gardeningknowhow.com). I was amazed at the simple and profound statement.
The color was technically there all along, just unseen until circumstance of growing darkness brought it out for us to witness.
And my heart cries out, “oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” (romans 11:33) as this perfectly parallels our human existence. How do we die? And not just physically. How do we die every day to ourselves? How do we die when circumstances are really hard and feel unbearable? How do we die to ourselves as we trust the Creator more than our wayward feelings about what’s happening in the moment? As Elizabeth Elliot always reminds me,
“The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”
Maybe this has been so poignant to me because I have felt the season of death the past few months. Nothing happened really; nothing changed in my diagnosis or physical or cognitive ability because of multiple sclerosis, but it’s felt more like dying to self than that diagnosis did. A friend asked several weeks ago about what fruitfulness I saw in my life or around me and I just had to answer with an honest, “I don’t know. It just feels like death right now. I see no fruit.” Now, it wasn’t totally true that I saw no fruit anywhere around me, but my over arching emotion and spiritual place at the time felt like death, or maybe I could call it pruning, or even Autumn. And instead of running away, like I’m hard-wired to do (ask my mom about all those times I attempted to run away as a kid), I’ve slowly, and painfully, made the shift to abide – to stay, to dig in .…
Dig in to the multitude of times I have had to repent and humbly acknowledge my haste in word or emotion; dig in and reconcile on many different occasions, be it for myself or my child with her friends; dig in and come to terms with my limitations in things I thought I had control over or was good at; dig in and admit that I do not have the right answer, or the words to pray, or even strength to lead where I think I’m called to lead; dig in and admit my weakness. It’s a slow dying to self.
But Autumn! The gift God gives of Autumn gives me hope!
Autumn is a paradox of death and planting. Of true colors being revealed as the cover up is no longer produced. Silently, seeds are being sown. Like Jesus tell us, “…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24) And I declare with Pete Scazerro,
“Lord, forgive me for fighting the ‘deaths’ you send into my life in order to plant something new.”
You may or may not be spiritually, mentally, emotionally in the season of autumn. I agree with Scazerro who says that the seasons happen to us – we can’t control them. They have much to teach us. But regardless of where you are, may you, as well as I, abide in the Source, sending out our roots to steams of living water – Jesus; not the dry streams of our own making. May we die well, wait well, and grow well, knowing that there is beauty and purpose in each season.
No season is ever a waste for a child of the Most High King.