The Meaning of Autumn
Growing up in Roanoke, Virginia, I could climb a small hill in our neighborhood and, with one slow turn, take in a 360 panorama of fall color blazing from the mountains looking down on our valley from above.
For me, fall was not just a time for admiring the view, or trick or treating and pumpkin pie. It was Saturday sandlot football games and, thanks to the big Maple in out front yard that doubled as the goal line, an impressive leaf pile to purposefully dive into when scoring touchdowns.
Then came the fall of my mother’s cancer diagnosis and, with it, a more sober view of the season.
On the day my mom died, the bare trees visually reminded me of the loss. The air’s chill matched that of my soul. While only in my early 20s then, I remember feeling as if every bone of my body was breaking along with my heart. I cried so many tears I couldn’t cry any more. At times, it even seemed hard to breathe.
And yet, with God’s help—including some amazing, caring people He brought into my life to carry me through—this difficult season did pass. I learned to see fall anew, and realized I actually did learn something useful in biology class.
I remembered that trees that shed their leaves every year change color because they no longer need to produce chlorophyll to absorb sunlight for growth. As the chlorophyll that gives leaves their green color breaks down with shorter days, less light and the cooler temperatures of fall, the pigments that always were there in the tree are unmasked and displayed for all to see.
This brilliant but beautiful show ends with the falling leaves decaying and enriching the soil for the cycle to repeat again when the days lengthen and bring more sunlight and warmer temperatures.
What appears dead isn’t.
People who have faith in Jesus Christ have seen this before. It’s the grand story of redemption: On a hill where the Romans killed the guilty, our innocent and sinless Jesus died to pay the price of sin once and for all so we who believe in Him would live with him forever.
His enemies saw death and missed the new life in progress. What about us? We often forget Jesus taught us to die daily to ourselves so His Spirit can guide every thought, word and deed so we truly live.
When life feels and looks barren as it did for me that fall long ago, remember what you cannot see but know by faith is true.
In death, there is life. That is the meaning of autumn and the source of our hope.