The Lesson of Leaves
[I] will not leave you or forsake you (Deut. 31:6b).
We’d waited… and waited.
Then, just like that–the pop of western North Carolina color. Suddenly, the mountains were awash in watercolor beauty.
We walked, talking some. Laughing.
Mostly, we just enjoyed the sound of leaves under our feet, the beauty above us that we knew wouldn’t last.
Still, we had that moment, and so we held on tight.
Being October–though most leaves yet clung to trees, danced in frock and frill–we knew.
Soon, they’d fall.
But on that fine day, they fretted not about their future, when a single cold snap and stiff breeze would send them flying from their branches, to land upon a yet unfamiliar forest floor.
After all, the ground they’d only seen from their treetop view; thus, it was a foreign land, for certain. Therefore, the unknown could understandably be frightening, for not one had ever been that way before.
Born upon the branch in springtime, they’d been birthed from buds–from whence each emerged as spring inched toward summer.
And then, in summer’s season, they’d offered protection for woodland creatures. Among them, even with them, were nests–sanctuaries for squirrels.
Shade too. Hovering high above, they’d created a canopy under which we’d walked in June, July, and August.
September found them in old age–the lifespan of a leaf only stretching half a dozen months at most. Still, they weren’t afraid. Their quivering was never equated with fear but with frivolity–
Waltzing with wind.
A tango with the passing of time.
Slow dancing with September as summer drew to an end.
They knew–had some sort of intuition, those leaves…
It takes dying to draw forth certain sorts of beauty–that which cannot be known, nor discovered, in the living.
Whispering among themselves, they’d encouraged each other, exhorting in September and early October–
Don’t be afraid; rather, face death with dignity. Witness our coronation–when we’re crowned with color, wearing gowns of glory, each kissed by the Sun.
And one by one, they joined their community’s choir and sang “Yes!” to a greater Source–then dressed in golds and reds, oranges and browns, each a reflection of the Painter’s palette.
So on that day–the day we walked–we marveled, for Fall’s finery had finally burst forth, as if on display, and merely for us.
Oh, little do we know. So little we understand.
For the exhibition for which we’d excitedly (though somewhat impatiently) awaited–holding our breath, afraid to blink–was so much more than simply leaves showing off.
And perhaps it prompts one to pause–to breathe in, breathe out–and think about it…
… To ponder all that took place that we earth observers–those of us whose eyes were specially created with cones and rods that we might see color (Such a gift!)–can clap and cheer and marvel in autumn.
Because, truth be told, all this hoopla, all this hype–the pièce de résistance that makes many feel so alive come October–is simply…
The beauty of dying.
And before most are ready, Winter’s winds beckon leaves to let go–to surrender in trust, that, drifting downward, they can finally rest.
And that’s where we walk today–plodding along a path, a plethora of patterns at our feet.
But in the coming days–cloaked in coats, fighting cold–we may cry out, “Why?” as we walk–the leaves no longer visible, buried under Winter’s blanket.
But in our questioning, might we lean in, listen closely? Might we hear the echo of the Oak, the Elm, the Sycamore?
These sturdy, deeply rooted entities entreat us to trust–remind us that it’s in dying that we’re raised to new life.
That, come springtime, there’s sure to be rebirth–the passing of days leading, yet again, to a coronation–leaves in glorious gowns, crowned with color…
And not just for People’s applause–oh no, though that’s certainly something.
Leaves emerge from buds and are born into beauty, first and foremost, for the glory of God, the Creator of all, who perhaps whispers–yes, even to them…
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread… for it is the LORD your God who goes with you (Deut. 31:6a–ESV).
Even in death–yes, especially in death– He goes with us, and there we will see Him face to face.
Thus, the lesson of the leaf…
For everything there is indeed a season–a time to be born, as well as a time to die (Eccl. 3:1, 2).
What we’re promised is that we have a Love that will never let us go, and we’ll never go alone.
Jesus, thank you for walking with us through every Season of life. Help us to hold to your good and precious promise to never leave or forsake us. Like the wise Scottish hymn writer George Matheson–who wrote his most famous and inspired song in literal darkness (due to blindness)–may we cling to the hope that yours is a Love that will never let us go. And may we say, according to your will, “So be it.”
**(This appeared first in 2019.)***