The fall foliage has finally gotten nice in western Kentucky. I’ve not been able to get out and photograph much due to demands at work but I’ve enjoyed seeing the beautiful colors as I drive around town. The hues of autumn bring me a lot of joy. That joy is tempered however by the knowledge that the colors will not last long. In a matter of days the trees will be bare and will stay that way until spring of next year. Realizing this I try to take time to enjoy the fall foliage while I can and encourage others to do the same.
One of my other fall rituals is trying to remember that there are important lessons to be learned from nature this time of the year. For example, fall helps me to remember that some of God’s blessings are fleeting and truly must be enjoyed while they are present. If we wait until tomorrow it might be too late. I also recall this time of the year that just as the autumn foliage brings sustenance to my spirit, when the leaves fall they give sustenance to the earth as well. As trees lose their leaves it can seem like a death when in reality it is only a continuation of the circle of life.
A few days ago I did manage to go out one morning for a couple of hours to photograph in Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area. While I was focused on taking images of cedar cypress trees in the Sloughs a friend pointed out to me some lovely acorns on an oak tree just a few feet away. I took several pictures of the acorns and surrounding leaves. Later it occurred to me that these acorns play a role similar to the leaves of the tree. They, too, will soon fall to the earth below them and bring nourishment to both wildlife and the earth itself. What might appear to be an end for the acorn is in some ways just a beginning.
Nature seems to have more than its share of reminders about God’s intricate economy. Just as in the natural world death and life form a circle, it is clear in the Scriptures that death and life are closely tied together spiritually. Those of us who are Christians affirm that both abundant life and eternal life are gifts made available to us as a result of the death of Jesus. We also remember that there are numerous calls in the New Testament for followers of Christ to die to self. Jesus once said, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24) If we are unwilling to die to self and live for both God and others we break the circle of life God intended. At the same time, when we do die to self and live for both God and others not only do we find true life but we become channels of life for others too.
The selfish side of me would like to see the autumn leaves stay on the trees for a very long period of time but I realize that this is not what is best for the trees or for the earth. The selfish side of me would also like to have the world revolve around me but, here too, I recognize that this is not at all what is best for me or for those around me. As paradoxical as it may seem, if I want to experience life to its fullest and help others experience the same I must die to self. Perhaps God knew that this would be a difficult lesson for some of us to learn or remember so and He gave us some great object lessons to help us grasp this truth. All we have to do is watch the leaves and acorns fall to the ground this autumn.
(I took the top image at John James Audubon State Park in Henderson, KY, and the rest at Henderson Sloughs W.M.A.)