Alex Watt

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The Beauty of Fall

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

– Thomas Chisholm, Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Photo credit: Annie Spratt

Some of my friends were talking about beauty this morning and where we find it. We thought briefly about the beauty in sadness, in endings, which speak volumes about the goodness that really was and say something true to us about our own condition.

But how do endings affect our love? I think C. S. Lewis has thought profoundly on this – hear him speak in the context of bereavement:

And then one or other dies. And we think of this as love cut short; like a dance stopped in mid-career or a flower with its head unluckily snapped off–something truncated and therefore, lacking its due shape. . . . [F]or both lovers, and for all pairs of lovers without exception, bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love. It follows marriage as normally as marriage follows courtship or as autumn follows summer. It is not a truncation of the process but one of its phases; not the interruption of the dance, but the next figure. We are “taken out of ourselves” by the loved one while she is here. Then comes the tragic figure of the dance in which we must learn to be still taken out of ourselves though the bodily presence is withdrawn, to love the very Her, and not fall back to loving our past, or our memory, or our sorrow, or our relief from sorrow, or our own love.

– C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

The last figure of the dance is in some ways the most beautiful. But then again, it’s not even the last – only the last for now.

And I think this is one of the reasons I love fall. Many of us know we love it for the apparent beauty it brings – orange and brown, apple cider and bonfires, cool breezes and pumpkins and jean jackets. But I think we also love it for reminding us of a spring and summer past, for preaching Ecclesiastes to our hearts, for saying that seasons are regular and good, and for saying that our lives – they’re like those leaves. Fall has a way of setting eternity on our hearts.

The grass withers, and the flower fades, but the word of the Lord stands forever. And that’s the word that was preached to us! (1 Peter 3:15)

As we get on with our lives, summer after spring after winter after fall, let us notice the beauty in the regularity and see the joy of God in the seasons he has made. He loves to do it again, as Chesterton would say! This is beauty that was here long before us – think how your great-great-grandparents must have loved it together – and beauty that will continue long after us (Genesis 8:22). This world will forever be telling the glory of God, and only more so as it continues to groan and the sands of time get on.

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:14)

That wisdom is not merely the wisdom of spending our days well, but also of realizing their insignificance except that God chooses to use them. It’s the wisdom of fall, wisdom that reminds us that summer is over and winter is coming and this is ultimately about the faithfulness of God.

Posted on 22 Sep 2017.

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