The different seasons of life have always fascinated me. I grew up in Tennessee, where I had a front-row seat to the beauty of nature. I also am blessed with a grandmother that made it her mission in life to share the beauty and hidden stories that the Tennessee mountains hold. One of my fondest memories with her is the poem she shares every time fall begins. I wish I could invite her into your home right now, so she could recite it for you, but you will have to settle for using your imagination. So, try to read this in the sweetest Tennessee accent that you can think of and let the words paint the picture of the changes described here.
“Come, Little leaves,” said the wind one day,
“Come over the meadow with me and play;
Put on your dresses of red and gold,
For summer is gone and the days will grow cold.”
Soon as the leaves heard the wind’s loud call,
Down they came fluttering, one and all;
Over the brown fields they danced and flew,
singing the glad little songs they knew.
“Cricket, goodbye, we’ve been friends so long;
Little brook, sing us your farewell song;
Say you are sorry to see us go;
Ah, you will miss us, right well we know.
“Dear little lambs in your fleecy fold,
Mother will keep you from harm and cold;
fondly we watched you in vale and glade;
Say, will you dream of our loving shade?’
Dancing and whirling, the little leaves went;
Winter had called them, and they were content;
soon, fast asleep in their earthly beds,
The snow laid a coverlid over their head
It may seem odd to read this right as the Texas summer heat is rolling in, but I have found there is always a lot to learn within the seasons of change. While leaves cannot actually talk or experience life in the way this poem describes, I have found my life to be strikingly similar. I have experienced seasons where God’s call has felt like the wind. It is exciting and surprising and has brought me new adventures and sweet friendships. At other times, God’s call has felt like the winter. It is cold and filled with hard goodbyes and frustrating loneliness. In this season, I have often questioned how to navigate the seasons and shifts of God’s call like the leaves do. They never question or doubt the path the wind picks. The poem ends by saying that even in the winter, the season that literally kills them, the leaves answer the call with contentment. Is it possible to learn from the leaves? Is it possible to find contentment and joy even in the midst of changes that seem scary and spiritual seasons that seem as cold and harsh as the last two years of our Texas winters? Oswald Chambers gives us a hint of an answer to these questions in his concept of the “discipline of dismay.” He describes this as a discipline that is essential for us to learn because he believes that it is within the suffering and changes of life that we can see God more clearly. In the direct words of Chambers, out of our endurance “will come the ability to follow Jesus truly, which brings inexpressibly wonderful joy.”
These two concepts seem to clash when we think about dismay and joy together, but I have found this statement to be so sweet and true over the past two years of my life. I moved away from my sweet Grandmother to Fort Worth in 2020. In this transition, I have felt just like the leaves, flying around between feelings of excitement and joy to fear and tough goodbyes. In all the different gusts of wind, even as my life settles and my homesickness fades, God shows me where contentment is found. It’s found in the community that I discovered here at Christ Chapel and in the sweet invite of a friend to grab coffee. However, it’s also found in the tears I cry for my family or the mountains of Tennessee. Joy and dismay, equally present and equally drawing me to the source of my contentment.
Psalm 103:15-17 uses the concept of the wind to remind us how fragile and short our lives are. Verse 16 says, “the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” While seasons of change are inevitable and can often leave us feeling as fragile as a blade of grass, the psalmist reminds us that our God is everlastingly the same:
“From everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s love is with those who fear him…”
Our minds cannot even comprehend how final “everlasting to everlasting” is! Our God’s love is firm and solid no matter how much the ground beneath us shifts or no matter where the wind of life takes us. While this knowledge does not take away the fear change brings or perfectly answer the questions that plague our minds in this season, it brings us hope and leads us to the path of contentment. We can walk confidently through seasons of change because we are reminded that our God is constant and that our lives are forever held in his perfect love.
– Katie Torbett