Make Like a Tree and “Leave”

Autumn is—hands down, without a doubt, no question—my favorite time of the year.

Now that I would make such a judgment is rather significant in itself. For some reason, I have never been willing to “choose favorites” about this sort of thing. All my life, I’ve somehow felt bad about saying that I prefer one thing over another. For instance, it’s taken me years to decide that country music is my favorite genre. I’ll proudly tell you that the sunset is my favorite time of day. Now I will finally state that my favorite color is green, especially of the lime variety. It wasn’t until recently that I decided that “O Holy Night” is my favorite Christmas song. As a child, I think I convinced myself that it would be unkind to leave something out. However, rather than an irrational fear of hurting the feelings of inanimate objects or concepts, the real source of my non-favoriting (yes, I did just invent a new word. Call me “Shakespeare.” Haha) was actually indecision. Bizarre, but true.

Okay, so back to autumn. Note that I called it “autumn” rather than “fall.” I was chatting with my friend Fraser in Scotland awhile back, and he politely reprimanded me for saying “fall.” So, Fraser, it’s out of respect for you and your kinsmen across the pond that I say “autumn.” (But I still refuse to spell “realize” with an “s”. haha) 🙂

Okay, so why do I love autumn? Well, I’m so glad you asked! I have many reasons. Where to begin?

One wonderful reason to love autumn is the wardrobe change. Don’t get me wrong; I love my Nike shorts (aka “norts”) and t-shirts, and I enjoy wearing a sundress now and then, but I get very excited about my autumn clothes. When the weather becomes brisk enough that I need a cardigan or jacket, I could do a dance of joy (don’t worry, I will spare you the viewing dis-pleasure and refrain from doing one now). Call me simple, but I love donning a fresh, crisp pair of jeans and warm, cozy sweatshirt. Mmm, heavenly.

For all you sports fanatics out there, football is another fantastic reason to root for fall’s arrival. Autumn wouldn’t be complete without those Friday night lights or those “Boys of Fall,” as Kenny Chesney so poignantly sings. Whether you played this all-American sport or cheered from the stands, football likely holds a very special place in your heart. Whenever I watch a high-school football game, I can’t help but smile as I remember standing for the entire game, holding up my fingers to signal the arrival of the fourth quarter (and our impending victory), and waking up hoarse the next morning from yelling… except during my stint as mascot. Big fuzzy tigers don’t yell. Haha.

Although the majority of my readers probably won’t agree with this next reason for loving fall, I’m going to share it anyway: School begins. While the rest of the world mourns the end of summer, I always get a little giddy. Each school year is a fresh start, full of new things to learn and new experiences to have. As an unashamed nerd, I find autumn exciting and exhilarating, like inhaling the brisk October air.

But without a doubt, my favorite of all favorite parts about my favorite season (yes, I did just use “favorite” three times in one sentence—wait, now four times) is absolutely, positively, resolutely, undeniably, indefinitely, ecumenically, metaphysically, and presynaptically…

The leaves. 🙂

As I mentioned earlier, the sunset is my favorite time of day. For half an hour each evening, pinks and oranges and yellows swirl together to create a masterpiece on the sky’s canvas. As often as possible, I enjoy this ever-changing, ephemeral magnum opus, soaking it in one color at a time until it fades into the shadows of twilight. Unfortunately, sunsets are very transient, lasting only a few minutes. But autumn’s leaves last much longer, like a month of constant sunsets to brighten up my day.

However, like each sunset, autumn must come to an end. One by one, the beautiful leaves fade to brown and fall to the ground, soon to be raked into a pile and taken away. And here in this pile of wilted leaves—or rather, above this pile—is where we find our lesson: the tree.

Not long ago, the tree was beautiful, the center of attention. The tree had fulfillment, security, and joy in its leaves. The leaves completed the tree, and as a result, the tree was happy.

But then the time came for the tree to lose its leaves. So the tree obeyed, slowly surrendering its precious, once-vibrant but now brown leaves one by one to the expectant ground below. Soon, the tree was alone again, bare and leafless. But not without hope.

You see, the tree knows something vital: Spring will come. Even though the leaves are missed. Even though the winter will be cold and long. The spring will come, and new leaves along with it. And so, the tree lets go of the old, dying leaves in faith, knowing that the new, living leaves are coming, just around the seasonal corner.

I would be a terrible tree. Instead of letting go, I hold onto things with a white-knuckled grip for as long as I possibly can. Desperately, I cling to the past because I understand it; it seems safe. I know the past; it’s predictable and it isn’t going to change. I don’t want to let go of it; I’d rather hold onto it, even the painful parts because at least it’s something. I’m an oak tree, stubbornly gripping my ugly, crusty leaves for as long as I possibly can.

But that’s not how God wants me—or you—to live. On the contrary, He comes to give us life, and life abundantly. So often, though, we choose our brokenness and heartache instead because it’s familiar; it feels safe. But when we do that, we miss out on the joy He longs to give us. We miss the hope He died to bring. We miss the life and plan He has for us. And most importantly, we miss Him, our Savior.

But when we let go, when we finally surrender those bits of our pasts, those parts of ourselves, those things that are so afraid to give up, that’s when we find freedom and hope. That’s when the healing begins. And that is when our life really starts.

…Which I guess makes spring my second-favorite season. 😉

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