25 Oct Reflect, Release, Renew
This has not been a particularly spectacular year for autumn. Whether it was too much rain for too long, or too much heat in to October, or something else entirely, the one clear conclusion is that there has been meteorological confusion. I feel the trees’ pain, I really do. Every day has presented dizzying dilemmas: should I wear shorts for my three-mile walk or do I need a sweatshirt? Is it a jacket day, or would I be more comfortable in a sleeveless blouse? It’s hard to stay sane with temperatures that are doing their best to imitate a rollercoaster—up, down, and all-around.
Despite the very green trees outside my window, there are other signs that the season is changing. Mums and pumpkins are on lots of doorsteps, including my own. Stores are displaying racks and racks of Halloween costumes plus massively large bags of candy. There was frost on my car windshield this week. Time is relentless which sometimes feels like a blessing and sometimes feels cruel, but it very reliably does ensure that autumn will eventually give way to winter, even if the trees don’t yet know it.
The change of seasons is an ideal time to reflect on the seasons of change in our lives. Just as trees shed their leaves and are dormant before there is regrowth, we can ask: what do I need to shed in order to grow? Can I let go of my rigidity, pride, self-criticism or fear today? Can I drop the need to be right, or to judge others, or to be in charge? For some of us, embracing a new season might mean trusting other people. For others, it might mean trusting oneself.
It is not my favorite truth, but it is a truth nonetheless, that growth and pain are usually inseparable. Pain forces me outside my comfort zone, outside the “self” that I am most familiar and at home with, and that is precisely when and where I am most open to change. As I shed the old—old patterns of belief, thought, attitude and behavior—I am then able to try new ways of being. Sometimes this requires experimentation. I “try on” a new belief or attitude and walk around in it for a while. Does it feel more honest, more authentic? Does it move me towards greater health and wholeness, towards a deeper joy and peacefulness?
With growth comes increased self-awareness, and self-awareness is a gift no matter the season. Self-awareness is ultimately about knowing and acknowledging the truth about ourselves—not ourselves as we would like to be, but as we really are. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is recorded as saying, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (8:32). We frequently fail to appreciate how true Jesus’ words are when applied to our own self-understanding. It is only as we speak the truth about ourselves—the unvarnished, stark-naked truth about our pettiness and jealousies, anger and self-righteousness, insecurities and self-condemnation—that we can then release these toxic beliefs and allow the real truth to bloom in their stead: that we are unconditionally loved just as we are; that we are never alone because God is present with us always; that we are of infinite worth and value; that there is nothing to fear because God is on our side; that no matter what mistakes we’ve made, God can and will redeem them in ways that lead to new life.
Soon enough the leaves will fall to the ground, exposing the branches of the trees. We will turn up the heat, dig out our gloves from the back of the closet, make the first pot of chili, and watch the sky take on a gray cast as the days grow shorter and the darkness lengthens. I wonder if we might embrace this time of changing seasons as an opportunity to reflect on our lives and to release and let fall to the earth the old, so that something new might be reborn its place.
Yours for the Kingdom,