In honor of the first day of Fall this week, here's a story from Bryan about the grace of letting the dead things fall away in your life. I hope you find it helpful and encouraging!
LET THE LEAVES FALL
I remember the smell, and the crinkle, and the varying shades of brown, yellow, and orange. I remember the crispness of the air, and the scraping of the rake against dry leaves. I remember a Nebraska autumn and a lawn covered in fall’s leafy quilt and my little brother and I leaping with reckless abandon into piles of musky sweetness.
I remember a time when raking up the dead and fallen things in our lives meant not sorrow, but joy. Not regret, not fear, but hope in what was to come.
If I close my eyes, even now, I can see the sheen of sweat on my dad’s face as he leaned over the rake. I can hear the sound it made as he pulled it over the dead grass toward him.
“Bryan, grab the little rake from the garage and help me.”
I trotted to the garage, pulled down a rake that was bigger than I was and dragged it outside. Then, I swished the tines across the leaves to gather them into a tiny pile.
Dad added more leaves to my pile.
A moment later, my three-year-old brother toddled out of the house. He clapped his hands. “Oh, yay! Can we jump in them yet?”
Dad shook his head.
Justin did. Little by little, the pile grew, with Dad adding great bundles of leaves, me adding small bundles, and Justin adding a few here and there, as much as his little hands could carry.
Soon, the lawn was clear, the pile a gigantic heap of potential-fun, and the rakes were safely stored.
Dad sat on the steps and rested while Justin and I squealed and ran and threw ourselves into a mountain of fall colors. Dad smiled as we played and played and played. We tossed leaves, we burrowed in leaves, and we laid in leaves while gazing up at the gray sky.
And we never, ever wished that the leaves would turn green and go back onto the trees again. We weren’t afraid of their falling. We didn’t feel bereft.
Instead, we knew that fresh, green leaves would come in the spring, while these dead ones had fallen to bring us joy . . . and a little work.
So why, all these years later, do I grumble and moan and fear when dead things fall away in my life? Why do I clench my hands so tightly around things that no longer bring me life? Why don’t I let them fall and bring me a new kind of joy?
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
When I hear this verse, I usually think about it as if it only means that sometime, way in my past, when I accepted Jesus I became a new creation in Christ. But as I think of the falling leaves of autumn, I wonder if it doesn’t also mean that Christ continues to make me new, renew me . . . and cause the old, dead things to fall away like autumn leaves.
And when they do, when the leaves scatter on the dry ground, I don’t need to fret about what I no longer have, what I no longer am. Instead, I can look forward to new, green leaves in the springtime, and for now, find joy in the crinkly, brown piles in my life.
Now, as I gather dried leaves for my own kids, I think about those days long ago when my dad did most of the raking, the piling, the working. I helped. My little brother helped. But I know now that dad did the real work. And I remind myself that when dead things fall away in my life, it’s my heavenly father who is doing most of the work then too. I help. Others may help. But it is God who is clearing away the crusty brownness of old habits, dead plans, and things that are no longer vital, living.So, when dead things fall away, I want to stop worrying and instead revel in thankfulness for God’s work in my life. I want to lay on the leaves in a heap, look up, and know that spring is coming. I want to trust God enough to rake beside him and rejoice when the work is done.