It’s impossible for me to make it through October without thinking about change. The trees lining my street are absolutely breathtaking in their fiery reds, their striking yellows, and the whole spectrum between. Everything points to transition, and it’s beautiful to behold. Weird as it sounds, I find myself wondering how the tree feels. The process they’re in leads to death as the leaves brown and/or eventually fall to the ground, leaving the bare branches to fend for themselves through the winter. Do they know they’re beautiful in their life cycle of death and renewal? Of change and loss? Their foliage is in high demand as home decor and the backdrop of yearly family pictures. Their change brings beauty.
Does ours? The tree isn’t offered a choice in its change. It is created to glorify the Creator and point to His “unseen” qualities (Romans 1:20). We, too, are not always offered a choice in change. Death, disease, disaster… all bring change and with it, grief, pain, and sorrow. It is not my intent to offer a trite analogy that disrespects the depth of these experiences. Instead, I mean to say that even pain brings change that has purpose and, as gently as I can say it, can accomplish good.
While God Himself does not change (Heb. 13:8), different seasons are new opportunities to see and feel and believe in another aspect of His character. I remember, in a season of deep hurt, feeling held by God in a way that I’d never experienced before. In another time of desperation, I was blessed to clearly hear God because my circumstances stilled me enough to listen. While I will never wish those seasons back, I see the beauty they held.
Change is inevitable. It’s happening around us and to us and in us at all times. Few choices are o ffered. But the first choice I do see, is the one between faith and worry. It’s the fork in the road I was confronted with daily, sometimes hourly, in a past season of uncertainty. Do I trust God? Or not? That question defined everything else. It didn’t change my circumstances, but it determined my response to them. The promises in Scripture that offer a straight path (Prov. 3:5-6), peace beyond understanding (Phil. 4:6-7), and “all these things” (Matt. 6:33) hinge on trusting Him, praying with thanksgiving, and seeking Him first. Those are simple choices. Not easy, but not complicated.
The second choice apparent to me is active vs. passive change. We’ve established change is happening to us and around us. But what am I doing about it? What is my role? Spectatorship is reserved for those who don’t care how things turns out. That’s a luxury most of us can’t afford; not in our marriages, not in our parenting, not in our careers, and not in our faith journey.
Let me stop right here and dispel any “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” message you may be sensing. That’s NOT my message. As a recovering perfectionist, the inability to change myself is a frustration as familiar to me as breathing. But at the risk of sounding like a career coach, I’m suggesting we all envision where we’d like to be and be intentional about taking small steps in that direction. Much like a degree or certificate program, there are prerequisites needed, an application process, time spent studying, and eventually achievement. None of that just happens to folks; it requires intentional choices.
I want my kids to treat other people like they matter, so I can choose to put my phone down so that they feel that from me first. I want my heart and worldview to be shaped by the Truth in God’s Word, so I can choose to set aside time to read and study it. There’s always the “or not” option. Passive change is always an option.
That’s where we differ from the trees. Yep, only that way, otherwise we’re totally the same. (Please note the sarcasm.) God desires to be in relationship with us where we choose Him (or not). Our submission isn’t mandated, just offered as the lighter yoke (Matt. 11:28-30). We’re the only part of nature given a choice.
That’s why fall feels like an annual sermon to me. One that hits heart strings, helps me worship, and offers hope. It’s a picture of the beautiful submission of nature to His plan. It’s a glorious display of His grace amidst change. The beauty around me challenges me to lay small, intentional “yes’s” on the table of my heart and trust that the seasons of my life will reflect His glory like the colors of autumn.