When my husband and I were in our first year of marriage, we became hooked on the series The Gilmore Girls, and much to the amusement of many of our friends, couldn’t stop talking about it.
I think that one of the things which drew us to buy the entire series, aside from the great plots and witty repartee, was the sheer delight and exuberance with which the main characters, and their little town, celebrated anything and everything to do with their community and the shifting seasons.
There was the ‘midsummer madness’ festival, the ‘save the bridge, knit-a-thon’, the ‘someone in our town has died, so let’s turn his beautiful old house into a temporary museum’ initiative, and our favourites – the Christmas and Autumn decorations throughout the town.
There is something about the shifting of the seasons which always excites me. It has to do with the smell in the air, pregnant with the promise of new beginnings, new hope. The sense that something exciting is waiting just around the corner and I am on the edge of breaking through.
I have always been like this, simultaneously wrestling with change, and inviting a shift into the unknown – desiring the growth that offers to move me forward.
Autumn is no different.
The changing colours and scent of late falling apples is full of promise. The nights are drawing in, causing us to spend more time indoors enjoying the warmth and intimacy of deepening conversations on the sofa. It is a time for holing up together with your spouse and children, making plans, for family traditions and for learning how to be in each other’s space more connectedly.
This season far from being barren and sparse, suggested by the loss of leaves, is an opportunity for harvesting what has been brought to birth. Building a store of good things to sustain us through the longer winter months. For being thankful that yet again, God has provided for us out of his abundance.
This is the same for our spiritual lives. We are constantly in a cycle of summertime and winter, seedtime and harvest, having to learn to lean on God when everything around us seems dead and abandoned, and revelling in the excitement of the supernatural explosions of grace we can see at a point of vibrancy and life. But we can feel as though the only times of growth are the ones where everything seems to flow, forgetting that much of the growing process happens in the dark, out of sight.
Autumn is a season when all things in the natural come to maturity. The promising shoots of spring, and the beautiful blooms of summer, whilst delightful, cannot feed or sustain us. They are the immature explosions of growth, valuable and beautiful, but superficial. It is only when these blooms die off, surrendering their treasured image of elegance and poise, that we discover real substance. Fruit which is maybe a little more gnarly or weathered, perhaps an odder shape than the appealing uniformity of the flowers which preceeded it, but no less beautiful and far more effective. It can be used to feed and nourish, allowing the cycle of life to continue.
Sometimes we have to let go of our desire to ‘look holy’, on the surface, as though we have it all together, and allow God to transform us from the inside out, regardless of how it makes us seem to other people.
Allowing ourselves to be messy and awkward, whilst God releases us into the real freedom that bears lasting fruit.
This can be hard when we are all second-guessing ourselves and each other, trying to demonstrate Godliness- sometimes so that others don’t slip up- but more often in case they decide that we are not good enough.
But if we want to grow and be an encouragement to others, then we can do no better than to accept ourselves as beloved of God, and sit in the season we are in, being true to who God has called us to be.
It takes generosity and humility to allow others to see us when we are vulnerable and haven’t yet put on our ‘spiritual make-up’, but this what it means to witness – letting God’s good work in us shine freely. It also stops us from taking His credit – something I can quickly fall into the trap of doing.
So celebrate the season you are in, allow God to teach you through it – don’t fight the messiness, by rushing to get out of it. You will move into the next season, at the right time, fuller, more mature and with much more true peace.
And whilst you are at it- find some way to celebrate the changes in the natural seasons, and treasure the memories and lessons they can offer. Get out of the house. Change your pace. Let yourself breathe.
We do so by throwing an annual Autumn Party- complete with leaf decorations, autumnal foods and folk music- because it’s not Christmas yet. It’s Autumn, and I for one am pleased to sit with it.