Friday, November 03, 2017

Autumn Disappointment

 I'm on a walk with Miriam, and the sky is a gloomy gray. For the last couple of weeks, Timehop has been teasing me with pictures of past autumn glory. Orange and red, gold, scarlet, rust, yellow, vermilion--our neighborhood a beautiful blaze of color. Today I mostly see dull, faded green and the occasional brownish-orange, nothing brilliant or spectacular.

I'm not sure what to make of this. I have the impulse to try and write about it. And then instead of adding it to my to-do list as one more "should" that I'll never get around to, I pull out my phone and start dictating as I walk through the neighborhood, pushing a stroller with my daughter.

It's 70 degrees today, and I'm sweating. The deliciously cool fall weather that finally seemed to have arrived for good has disappeared again. I hear someone mowing his lawn. Are the leaves actually going to change, or are they just going to let go in disappointment? I can't believe how green the trees still are on November 2. The wind kicks up, and dozens of leaves float to the ground without having revealed their beauty. Why?

Too much warmth? Too much sunshine? Too much chlorophyll? I have no idea of the scientific answer, but I can't help feeling let down. The promise of autumn's beauty--the glory in the dying that I have waxed poetic about so many times--isn't showing up this year. What does that mean?

It's this strange reminder in this strange new season of my life that nothing is promised. Or is that even true? Lots of bigger, eternal things are promised. I can trust the God who is sovereign over the seasons. Even when the transition is unremarkable and disappointing. Even when the beauty I anticipated and longed for falls short of my expectations.

We keep walking, and suddenly I see a beautiful red tree--the kind that usually populates our entire neighborhood. It stands out all the more because of its solitary beauty; there are no other colorful trees around to distract from its brilliant red leaves. The clouds shift a bit, and above the red tree I get a glimpse of that crisp blue autumn sky I always love to see.

A question surfaces: What will I choose to remember? The dull green-brown trees under the gray clouds...or this flash of crimson and bright blue?

It's a dilemma I face every day--a lesson the Lord has tried to teach me countless times. It's a question as old as Eve. Will you emphasize what you have, give thanks for what has been given, celebrate with gratitude? Or will you complain, meditate on what is lacking, focus on what is not yours--what has  seemingly been withheld?

The choice is always mine to make--even about something as simple as autumn leaves and brilliant colors, on a walk around my neighborhood on an ordinary Thursday morning. I'm hot and uncomfortable in my short sleeve shirt, but the breeze is blowing through my baby girl's hair. These sidewalks are uneven, hard to navigate with a stroller, but rundown houses are being renovated and given new life. The sun briefly peeks out in between all the clouds. I can walk again, after so many months of being immobile and in pain. And instead of the "all or nothing" thinking that plagues me, I'm choosing "all or something": I'm dictating this blog post instead of letting the idea disappear into the draft folder of good intentions. 

But how is all this different from Pollyanna, from naivete and rose-colored glasses? Reality is also that my girl is starting to whine, and chances are good she might be full-on screaming by the time we return home, my blood pressure rising. The lack of color is still a disappointment. I'm still going to need a shower. My jeans are still too tight.

It's a matter of who gets the last word. Sunshine briefly warms my face. Tiny dimpled hands grasp the side of the stroller. No matter how unspectacular their dying, these trees will still be reborn in the spring.

The darkness will always be there. The disappointment is a permanent fixture east of Eden. But the light is more permanent still--the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.

Beautiful Through Dying
Autumn Beauty
Contemplating Beauty
Part of the Whole
The Last Word: BUT God

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