now is the wind-time
the scattering clattering
early eves and gray days
clouds shrouding the traveled ways
trees spare and cracked bare
slim fingers in the air
dry grass in the wind-lash
waving waving as the birds pass
the sky turns, the wind gusts
it must it must
("Autumn," by Debra Reinstra)
Out walking this morning, I enjoyed the untidiness and clutter of Creation. Leaves and pine straw blanket lawns normally manicured and sharply edged, blow across streets, gather in clumps near drains. Some trees look askew, asymmetrical, like poorly clad elderly folk or hastily clad youth. Still, the colors of dying leaves are rich, a last flame-out before passing, before their falling. I kick the leaves as I walk, making a noise that carries me back to my childhood and yet reminds me that I am older now.
Allen Young writes that "[a]lthough autumn reminds us that nothing is 'pristine,' it prunes summer's luxuriant foliage, revealing the stark contours of mounds, crevices, and stream banks. It is difficult to hide in the fall." And as we get older, thank God, it is more and more difficult to hide who we are. Our idiosyncrasies accentuate. Our ways become set. Our sins seem more evident. Our speech less guarded.
I like late Autumn best, when there is still a hint of color in the trees, and yet they are so translucent that I can see through them to the essence of the land, to the curve of a hill, the rise of a mountain, the intricacy of trunks and branches and twigs, the leafy nests of squirrels, the glittering stillness of the lake water beyond normally opaque foliage, rocky outcrops, and the backyard living rooms of homes. It is a time when the land gives up its secrets. Perhaps our autumn is a time we give up ours as well.
And it's a mess. And we're a mess. A beautiful mess.
This morning I walk thinking of that frightening passage in Luke 12:3 (ESV), that "whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops." It's sobering to think that just like the Fall will expose more and more of the real lie of the land to us until the Winter leaves it nothing to hide, so we move through life as God strips away our defenses, exposing our lie, as we submit to Him or, if we don't, then involuntarily submit on that last Day. But then the comfort, the promise of Spring and a new Summer of life: "Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. . . . and everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of God also will acknowledge before the angels of God" (Lk. 12:7-8). As Pastor Ray Stedman says:
Everything is wide open. No aspect of life can be hidden away. Knowing that, many of us are a little afraid to appear in glory. We know truths about ourselves that we do not want known. But Jesus says, "When you stand there with your entire record exposed for everybody to see, I will look at you and say, 'You are mine.' I will acknowledge your name before the Father and all his angels. This sinner, this defiled person, this unworthy character -- I want the universe to know -- he is mine!" That is what he promised to do. . . .
Rounding a curb, I catch a patch of pansies in the corner of my eye and stop, relishing this life amid the clutter of fallen leaves, the dying all around. The sky turns, the wind gusts/ it must it must. But that's not the end of the story. Spring will come. Until then, what a beautiful mess.