The Autumn of my soul
“If you picked off one of the dead leaves and examined the leaf-stalk through a microscope, you would find that the old channel is silted
up by a barrier invisible to the naked eye. From the first hour that the
layer of separation begins…the leaf’s fate is sealed;
there is never a moment’s reversal of the decision…
‘this old leaf shall die, and the new leaf shall live.’”
~ I. Lilias Trotter
Fall just may be my favorite season. I love the day in late summer when, from one day to the next, there is a palpable difference in the air. Even though it continues to be sunny and warm, there is a crispness that indicates change is around the corner. I don’t mind this kind of change. In fact I gleefully anticipate the colorful transformation that I know is coming. I can’t wait to feast my eyes on it, to put on sweaters and crunch my way through the fallen grandeur covering the ground. I look forward to it every year like clockwork.
Other changes are not quite so pleasant. Like the effects of time and gravity upon the aging body or the emptiness left when someone you love moves away or dies. Change is often painful, involving tragedy or the breakdown of a once close relationship. But change itself is our destiny. When walking with God it is the law of the Spirit of life setting us free from the law of sin and death. “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:52)
We see this mystery of change enacted all around us. The infant must leave the warmth and safety of the womb to be born into a foreign world he will soon call home. The seed must fall to the ground and perish in order to stimulate the next phase of life and fruit. What the caterpillar calls the end, God calls a butterfly. We must train ourselves not to fear but to embrace this message of change and the process of death in its life-delivering power.
In the summer of 2012 change came for our family one morning in the urgent care room. The pains in my 17-year-old son’s shoulder and chest were caused by a mass near his sternum. The news was devastating: lymphoma. From the first hour of the diagnosis a layer of separation began to form in our lives from one sort of existence to another. Life wouldn’t be the same. In September, instead of driving Ben to school we’d be going to and from the hospital. Instead of books and teachers there would be IV’s and doctors. Weekly blood draws would replace math quizzes. My once lively and social son would become a weak and vulnerable cancer patient.
I didn’t know what the outcome would be for Benjamin. But God did. It was in His all-powerful hands. He loved my son more than I did. So while I prayed and waited would I let go of my worries (and the outcome I wanted)
in order to receive God's peace and the outcome He wanted to give us? Would I embrace this change by faith and have the same gleeful anticipation of autumn knowing that the faithful God who is in charge of the seasons was in charge now? In the fading loss of our son’s health could I find the splendor to be enjoyed somehow, or would I see only ugliness to be feared and resented?
For the trees of the fields, the fate of this year’s leaves results in the beautiful and glorious display of red, yellow, gold and brown that delight our senses. We understand that the death we see and enjoy means life for the new unseen leaves that are forming. Every year in this recurring spectacle, nature raises it’s voice to declare the majesty and wisdom of God by showing us His wonderful redemption. “He takes the very thing that came in with the curse and makes it the path of glory. Death becomes a beginning instead of an ending for it becomes the means of liberating a fresh life.” (Lilias)
I knew that God made Benjamin for His good pleasure. I may have given birth to Ben but He was God’s by order of creation. Like Abraham with Isaac, I had to lay this child, God's good gift, on the altar of the One who calls Himself the Resurrection and the Life. I chose to express my love to God as Abraham did: with obedience. I would put my full trust in Him and receive His grace to walk through this and whatever was to come. God knew what He was doing and would answer my prayers according to His wisdom and purpose. Whether by life or death I chose to see and enjoy the beauty in that autumn of my soul. With that decision came the power to let go of what had been, and to let the Spirit flow His fresh liberating life into me and the future that was to be. Perfect peace guarded my mind as the eyes of my heart were opened to see the wonderful array of gifts to be received every day that we enjoyed with Ben. The display was just as beautiful as any fall in Seattle that I've ever known because God never fails.
Ben is 20 now and engaged to be married! God is so good. Not because my son didn't die that summer; not because he is marrying the "woman of my dreams"(the one I hoped and prayed for), but because He is who He says He is and I can trust Him—in life or in death. Nothing can separate me, or my son, from His love throughout each of life's recuring seasons of the soul.
We are yours Lord to do with as you please. Be glorified in us!