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A couple weeks ago, while driving home from the airport, I noticed for the first time this season, the changing of the leaves. Here in the South, autumn takes its cue from the culture around it, coming around slow and unhurried; like an afternoon spent sipping sweet tea on the front porch. I had tried noticing the leaves several times earlier in the month, but mostly all I caught was a blur of nature, as I flew along back roads from one child’s sports practice to another one’s game. Between school, soccer, football and a few trips – both for business and fun, I’ve been too consumed by life to actually observe it transforming before me.
But driving alone that last day of October, I noticed. Fresh splashes of orange, red, and yellow amongst the long leaf pine’s green needles. Normally I love fall’s colors; especially while running under a canopy of yellow and orange sun-streaked trees. If there is a gentle breeze, the leaves will laud and praise my efforts by drifting down around me and I find myself eight years old again – riding through my kingdom being hailed by loyal subjects under streamers of golden confetti.
That October afternoon, however, noticing the leaves left me sad and even a bit anxious. Soon, these leaves would shrivel and die and be blown from their branches by a wind outside their control. All will be bare and cold and colorless. My inability to stop nature’s inevitable turn towards death left me in a near state of mourning.
How ridiculous! I thought. This happens every year. You love fall. Why so weepy? Chastising myself only made matters worse. My chest tightened and my fingernails began digging into my palms as my hands reflexively choked the steering wheel. Now I really was an eight year old, sad and pouty over the coming of a season I am powerless to change and fail to realize won’t last forever.
There’s the real dig. My life is about to enter a season of changes I should invite, but truly fear. Next summer, my husband will give his final salute to military service. We are unsure of the face of medicine these next years, leaving us skeptical of most civilian doctoring options. My oldest son will be entering high school. I don’t know if he should attend a brick and mortar institution or continue being taught at home. We aren’t yet certain where we will live and despite our straining to hear that Voice greater than our own, His clarity comes at us muffled at best.
I’ve waited fifteen years for this time to come; when some bobble-head behind a desk wearing digitized camofluage wasn’t deciding where my family would live. But, the beautiful thing about lack of control is learning to accept circumstances as they are without becoming swallowed by them. Over the years of moving and adjusting, I’ve learned to embrace the positives of a place, accept its faults and adjust our living to overcome any perceived disadvantages. After all, it was only temporary.
What I failed to realize is this: needing to embrace and adjust to a place and time’s imperfections isn’t temporary. All these years, I have quietly accumulated terms and conditions for this upcoming season of life – so much, in fact, that I am being crushed under my own weight of expectations. I need to let go. But letting go requires faith – believing in that which I cannot see; hoping in One who is at work and leading us forward despite my limited vision. Right now, living with that kind of faith feels like being required to drive my children to their practices – blindfolded.
When leaves die in autumn it is only so roots are free to grow deeper and bring the tree to greater maturity. What is invisible work to our eyes in winter, becomes a glorious reality come spring. I know I need to let my expectations and demands go. Maybe then I will see the beauty of the season in front of me with greater clarity and gain greater wisdom for the fullness of life ahead.
As the man who begged Christ to heal his son, so also I cry: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”