By Ward Shope
I love fall: cooler temperatures, the growing layers of dress, the taste of apple cider and spice cookies, and the smell of healthy leaf decay…
I grew up on a farm with somewhere around 10 acres of yard and dozens of 100-150-year-old maple and oak trees. Several weekends each fall, the seven members of my immediate family would arm ourselves with rakes and troop to a section of yard. Working together, we’d develop encroaching lines of raked leaves, always moving toward the center until 4-5-foot-high towers of compact leaves would be taken hostage, stuffed into a 4-foot by 4-foot by 4-foot plywood box and hauled by tractor to an enormous compost pile. Then we’d move on to the next section and repeat.
For a young boy, there was a brief opportunity to recklessly jump into a pile of leaves so high that you couldn’t feel the ground beneath you. Yes, occasionally there were chestnut burrs, and you’d find shards of leaf stuck in your shoes, in your hair or even in your underwear. But there would soon be the resting of weary limbs (human ones) in front of a fireplace with hot cider in hand.
It was only later in life that I really noticed the colors. Almost all of the flowers have succumbed to the frost when the leaves start to decorate the backdrop of life. Even the grass that has languished all summer for just one drop of dew turns emerald. There is one final overwhelming splash of creation genius – just like the last few minutes of a fireworks display. All the stops are pulled out, and there is the seasonal flash of brilliant high-density color under the heavens, soon to be followed by the monochrome of winter.
As the analogy goes, if spring is like rebirth, fall is the reminder that death is coming. I don’t know why leaves turn color. I only know that as they die, they do. Our bodies are wasting away, but there can be a growing brilliance about us in the fall of our lives as we continue to walk with Jesus. And this Jesus display should probably intensify as we draw nearer. I have started to notice the growing color of Jesus in some of my older spiritual brothers and sisters, and even in my mother with whom I raked leaves years ago. And I hope, by God’s grace, my own spiritual brilliance will increase.