A tale of death and life

Photo: CKirgiss
2012 Apple Popcorn Festival, Brookston, IN.

A few weeks ago, I saw these pumpkins while walking small-town streets during a small-town festival.

And I rejoiced because I love everything about this time of year. The crisp air. The changing leaves. The crunchy earth.

The impending death.

Weird, I know.

Most discussions about being, whether humanistic or religious, are framed by the precisely ordered phrase “life and death” for good reason. The one so obviously follows the other.

Except when it doesn’t.

Coming as it does between summer (the season of life) and winter (the season of death), autumn treads in both worlds, displaying a bold embrace both of that which is flourishing and that which is dying. In these early days of autumn, the dying can be beautiful to behold – shocking red that is so rich I can (almost) smell it, feel it, taste it. And on the same branch, a green so deep I can (almost) hear it breathing, singing, growing.

Photo: CKirgiss
October leaves of Indiana.

We tend to view autumn as the season following life (summer) and leading into death (winter). And we tend to view that transition from life to death as a completed cycle, the final stage, the end of something.

Except when it’s not.

Because of course, winter is not the end. Spring follows on its heels, each and every year without fail, leading into summer’s riotous burst of life.

I love autumn for all the reasons listed above, and like all other autumn lovers, I’m thrilled to be wearing sweaters, eating soup, and wrapping myself in wool blankets again. But I’ve learned that my autumn-love is about so much more than that.

It’s about celebrating “death and life” in that precise order. My redeemed but still-sorry soul is so desperately in need of death – pruning, refining, purifying, cleansing – so that life can flourish in its place.

Autumn helps remind me of this, helps settle my soul into a place of spiritual expectancy in preparation for the much-needed, oft-repeated, sanctifying process of dying to self so that I can live for Christ. Such death is not the enemy, not to be feared, not to be avoided, and certainly not to be mocked. Such death is miraculous, renewing, and breath-taking. Such death is a gift, really, an invitation from Jesus himself to enter the re-creation story of my own spirit that he began on the cross.

I need to die. I really do. In so many ways. How unspeakably wondrous that such death is really a birth, which is a paradox typical of life with Jesus Christ.

And how even more unspeakably wondrous that nature’s season of death, stretched across the long, dark winter months, is momentarily pierced with the greatest Birth of all. Such is the grace of God that though life leads to death, death also leads to life. Over and over and over again.

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