What does Fall mean to you?
According to Ecclesiastes 3, there is a time for all things. When I was a child, I loved Fall. I was so excited to see the turning of the leaves and smell that crisp dry air that replaced the heavy, humid, Wisconsin Summer air. I’ll never forget the day that I told an adult that Fall is my favorite season. This person replied to me that Fall is a sad time of the year because it is a time of death. Now, as an adult, I can identify with that sentiment. In John 12:24, Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
What does Fall teach us?
There is a profound little poem in the musical, “The Fantasticks” by Tom Jones. The first time I heard it, I found tears running down my face, and I scarcely even knew why.
There is a curious paradox
That no one can explain.
Who understands the secret
Of the reaping of the grain?
Who understands why Spring is born
Out of Winter’s laboring pain?
Or why we all must die a bit
Before we grow again.
I do not know the answer.
I merely know it’s true.
l hurt them for that reason;
And myself a little bit too.
Perhaps it was because of this poem that I began to see seasons as metaphors. Spring is the time of new life and rebirth, summer is the time of increase and growth, Fall is the time of harvest, decline, and death, and Winter is a time of dormancy and waiting for Spring and the beginning of a new cycle. So I ask myself, “What does Fall teach us?” Jesus continues in John 12:25, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” When I read this difficult and cryptic paradox, it makes me grateful for the comforting object lessons embedded within the natural world. We know from nature that a caterpillar cannot become a butterfly until it goes through metamorphosis. A grain of wheat cannot grow unless it falls from the plant and dies. Fall teaches us that death precedes life.
How can we observe this season?
So in practical terms, what does this mean for the living of our lives? Each of us has experienced death in thousands of ways. Every night, we experience the death of a day as we fall asleep and are reborn to a new day. Throughout the course of our lives, we see the loss of relationships and the birth of new ones. The end of our formal education becomes the birth of our professional life. The loss of our youth gives way to the increase in our wisdom.
We can observe Fall by giving thanks for all the new life and increase that we have been given throughout Spring and Summer.
We can observe Fall by preparing ourselves for a season of rest.
I don’t think anybody would suggest that it is easy to experience loss and death. But Fall gives us a lesson in hope. We can observe Fall by rejecting fear and choosing instead to focus on the message of hope.
When I consider the uncertainty of this life, and the brevity of our time here, it is such a comfort to observe the promises that are embedded in nature. Much of death is unknown to us and some of us fear what we don’t know. But we do know how it feels to fall asleep at night. We have seen tiny, withered seeds turn into astonishing new life. And we have watched fuzzy little earth-bound caterpillars transform into beautiful flying works of art. Life moves ever forward, and we have been given compelling reasons to hope!