Does anyone else find it strange that everyone thinks fall is so beautiful – yet everything is just dying?
A friend posted this on social media earlier. It made me pause for a second, and I smirked. She’s right, after all. As we are all struck by the beauty of autumn, the changing colour of the leaves to bright yellows & reds all around us, in reality we’re taking delight in the seeming death of creation. Is it strange, that we find this event so beautiful, when for these trees this spells the end of their growth for another season?
I awoke this morning to a phone call from my wife. I knew as soon as she spit out the first few words that the news was not good, that it was sad. I knew the words that would follow her greeting before she even spoke them. In a voice on the verge of tears she spoke them: “Oma passed away.”
Oma is my wife’s grandmother. But she quickly became my grandmother. I think I called her Oma since our first meeting. She was a loving lady, a spunky lady; she was full of wit and an amazing story teller. She grew up on a beet farm, one of ten children. She worked hard, and she played hard; I loved to hear the stories of her antics, adventures, difficulties, and how she overcame obstacles living out a faith that surpasses mine most of the time.
“Oma passed away,” was a phrase I knew was coming … but I still didn’t want to hear it. It meant the end of something special and that’s never easy news to hear.
But yet there was something special, too, in her passing.
The beauty of autumn
What is it about autumn that makes it so beautiful? Why is it that we can take such delight in a season where everything is dying? The answer, of course, is that the trees are not dying but entering into a season of slumber. Each year we marvel at the colours of autumn because we have seen this before and we have complete assurance that after a time the trees will again bud and bloom.
How can we take such joy, and find such beauty, in creation entering into slumber? Because we have assurance. Because we know, after another season, new life will begin again. Because we have assurance that just as the sun will rise tomorrow after setting today, that new leaves will bud on the same trees that they now fall off of. Creation speaks of its creator. Creation testifies to the Truth that awaits us.
In Romans 8 Saint Paul says, “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.”
With eager hope
After talking with my wife for a while I hung up the phone, and I retreated to the fishing boat. In the cool fall air I sat in the boat, not really fishing; just sitting, and thinking. And I stared at a short birch tree on the edge of the shore, that outstretched over the waters; it was in its full fall glory, leaves a rich gold, it looked like the tree was wearing a crown.
I sat there and stared at the tree, rocking in the water, and heard the words again of my friend run through my head: “Does anyone else find it strange that everyone thinks fall is so beautiful – yet everything is just dying?” No. Because with eager hope we know that once again these leaves will return.
“But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay,” Paul says. And then he continues: “We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.”
“With eager hope.” I think that’s a great phrase to describe the way that Oma lived and loved. With eager hope she worked hard on her family farm and played with her siblings. With eager hope she sold a pig to buy her wedding dress (and with eager hope she searched for that pig, actually, when they discovered it had escaped from the truck on the way into the market). With eager hope she raised her children. With eager hope she loved & cared for her grandchildren, and her grandchildren’s children.
Most importantly, with eager hope, Oma lived out her faith. Faith that would see her through all of life’s events and the ups and downs, trials and joys, that it brings. Her faith guided her in how she lived and loved, because she clung to the assurance of her Creator with eager hope.
Paul ends chapter 8 by asking:
“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And so with Oma’s passing, despite our own grief and mourning, we at the same time can find beauty. Now she is free from pain and in the presence of her Saviour. For those of us who are left, we gather in eager hope. With eager hope we know that just as the leaves will bud again in the spring one day, too, will we join with our beloved Oma, mom, sister, aunt, and friend, in the presence of Jesus and worship Him together.