I was walking through the woods the other day with a million things on my mind—making mental to-do lists, replaying recent conversations in my head, worrying over the usual things I have no control over. Then I glanced up for a moment and literally stopped in my tracks, right there in the middle of the path.
My jaw came unhinged as I took in the sight. Fiery maples, golden elms, and burnt-orange oaks melded together in a kaleidoscope of colors just in front of me. The October-blue sky peeked out from behind the trees, and the sun shone a spotlight onto the autumn-hued rainbow.
I couldn’t help but think about the quote by that endearing redhead, Anne of Green Gables: “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” (Don’t ask how many times I’ve read the books and watched the PBS special. Suffice it to say, often times enough to quote liberally.)
As I stood rooted to the spot on the trail, a cyclist whizzed past me, no doubt annoyed I was blocking the path, but my feet were rooted to the spot. The scene was so beautiful I ached. Partly because I couldn’t hold all that beauty inside of me. And partly because the thing about fall is you know it can’t stay.
Then a rather morbid thought occurred to me: the leaves are beautiful because they are dying. Their chlorophyll is slowly leaking out, no more sustenance is going their way, and the trees are slowly shutting down the processes of life.
We think of death as the worst-case scenario. But we rarely stop midstep to acknowledge the beauty that often accompanies it.
Jesus, in his usual upside-down way, made this counterintuitive statement:
If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.
My grandpa was just in the hospital again. He and Grandma have been planning their 90th birthday bash for some time, and now it’s just weeks around the corner. They have a guest list that’s fitting for a couple as charming and delightful as they are—200 of their closest friends, their dozen children, and a slew of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Thankfully, Grandpa is home from the hospital now. He’s a pretty tough guy, and just stubborn enough (having 12 kids will do that to you) that I have no doubt he’ll be raring to go by party time. But Grandpa’s recent stint in the hospital was one of those moments that stopped me in my tracks, causing me to reflect, autumn-style, on his life.
As his strength on this side of eternity fades, his faithfulness for all these years—to his wife of 60-plus years, to his family, and to his God—blazes all the brighter. His life is an example of the beauty that can come with endings. The knowledge that his time here is wrapping up only directs a spotlight on those lovely, shining parts of his character.
If I hope to ever have a life that blazes like Grandpa’s, I first have to die to my own way of doing things, to my own agenda. Because it’s only when I surrender that I can embrace the beautiful life Jesus offers. It’s only by dying that I truly live.
Thanks for your life, Grandpa. Thanks for the beauty. It’s going to be one grand party.
How beautifully leaves grow old,
How full of light and color are their last days.
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.