Our paths cross unexpectedly on a sunny Autumn day in the middle of an arboretum. He's a friend from the past, his family in tow, and I'm just this beauty-hungry woman with a camera cradled in her hands. We're all here wandering through the woods to see the trees dressed in glory, afternoon sun glinting off every leaf.
We chat for a while and I join them in their happy explorations, but there's one thing he says that catches me and I can't forget.
These leaves, he says, are really dying. And we're here gazing at the beauty, but shouldn't we be mourning instead?
He's right and he's wrong all at the same time, and me, I'm searching for words to answer his seeking. But he's the one with the glass half empty and he can't let in the glory of the moment because he knows too well that life's full of pain and there's dying even in the living. There's nothing I can say to loosen his grip on all the heartache he's seen, so I let him go. But his words, they follow me long after we part ways.
It's three years later and I still haven't forgotten. Every time the leaves whisper of Autumn's coming, I think of him and wish I could've said then what I'd tell him now.
Because these three years, they've been full of all the grieving and the healing, the breaking and the mending, and I've seen the way God works in the middle of our darkest years. And it doesn't take me by surprise to see so much beauty in the dying of the leaves. No, that's just the thing I've come to expect from the One Who shatters who we are in order to make us into who we're meant to be.
I watch the leaves change color and I'm so taken with all the beauty that I don't notice that life's slipping away, creeping back down into the darkness, hiding from all the heartache of a winter. But that's just it. There's no dying here, really, only life finding protection from the things it cannot bear. And there's hope in the falling leaves because it's clear that life's found a way to hold on until spring.
And what better way to celebrate hope than with all these colors raining down?
I see it now, the way He does the same for me. Pieces of a life, they fall away and I'm too busy with the aching and the mourning to see that there's no dying here, only life finding protection from the things it cannot bear. Because God knows when the heartache's coming and He'll never leave me unprepared. I won't see it coming and I might think I've been left out in the cold, but why do I forget that He's known all along, that He's been drawing my deepest places into Himself, back down into the womb of His refining, shielding the sacred pieces of who I am?
It might take months, even years for me to find a way back into Spring's light, hold the pieces out for His mending of a soul. But there's always that day at the end of the grieving when I realize He's held me through all the loss and He's protected me even when I felt ripped open, shattered through.
And oh, there's beauty in all of it because He's in all of it.
I might wish I understood the workings of a God Who loves too much not to break us open for His Glory, but maybe knowing I am loved is better than understanding could ever be. I'll still mourn the losses of a life but I'm looking for beauty in them now, looking for Him in all the heartache of a life. And maybe it shouldn't still leave me breathless when I find Him there, but it does and I am and, oh, I'll never get enough of this beauty in all the broken places.
Maybe I'll find this friend from the past again someday, and when I do, I'll tell him that there's hope raining down in the Autumn leaves, that there's God raining down. And yes, there's pain and there's heartache and there's oh-so-much loss in these days of our living. But God, He's working it all out in Love and we only have to look for Him if we want to see Him here.
So open up your hands, I'd say, and let in the beauty and the glory and the God in this moment. And know that you are loved by the Greatest Lover of All. Because isn't that enough to change everything?
Yes, it's enough to change everything.
It already has.