As another birthday approaches, a song from “The Yeomen of the Guard” reminds me that if you think of a life as though it’s like a year with its seasons, then I have definitely reached Autumn.
In my eighth decade I know that I have far more time behind me than I do in front. I see beauty in everything I look at, from the face of a baby to the beauty of the night sky. My perspective has changed. I now take time to look at what is around me, and I am much less disturbed by the things that used to upset me. I’m less aggressive in many things like my driving or the way I react to the stupidity of some political decisions or in bureaucratic procedures. My family are getting more used (bored?) with me saying, “Will the world stop? No? Then relax.”
And having reached Autumn I don’t feel dispirited, partly because I have always loved this season. The brightly coloured leaves, the crisp cool mornings, the signs and celebrations of harvest, all give my morale a boost.
Nature has a particular loveliness when spring and summer are gone. So it’s not unreasonable to expect that in human nature something of the same beauty will be there when the days are drawing in and life is less active. I’m not thinking about faces, but there’s often a quiet kind of radiance in an old face that is so similar to the bright and eager faces of childhood and youth. I just wish that people nowadays let nature do her work unhindered. But we know not to ‘judge a book by its cover’. Nature may look to us as though she’s dying gracefully, but actually she’s very busy getting ready for the Spring.
So in my Autumn I can look back over my life and, and as it were, reap the harvest of my investment in time and effort in such things as family and friendships, as I see my children now grown, and grandchildren growing, and can celebrate such things as 50th anniversaries of graduations and other achievements.
Autumn too, is a season in which we don’t have the pests of spring and summer, things such as flies, mosquitoes, and rapidly growing weeds. And also it’s free from some of the problems of Spring – adolescence, when spots and acne made one so self-conscious and when peer-pressure quite often determined the people one could be seen with!
Hopefully, for you who are enjoying this Autumn maturity, you’ll tend to eliminate the trite and petty from your lives. Those of us at this stage know that life is too short to let personal vanity or the fickleness of public opinion deflect us from some of our daily joys.
And of course we mustn’t forget the harvest celebrations, a special time with family and friends when we pause to consider how blessed we are. This year we include in our celebrations the harvest brought about by the work of Charles, Jane and the boys. We hope that our work with them will also, in due course, bring about a harvest of its own in their lives. This Autumn in our lives should be the season for remembering and reflecting, a time to take pleasure in past and present abundance.
Of course, there is a chill in the air in autumn, a reminder that winter is not far away. Similarly, at this season we begin to face the fact of our own mortality. People, like leaves, die and turn to dust.
Yet with winter comes Christmas, and Christmas pre-echoes Easter. Yes, the flower fades and falls to the ground, but its seed will bloom again. And so autumn is a hopeful time.
The fact that death is approaching, when I shall leave this world, doesn’t fill me with dread. The anxiety that I see in my friends who have no faith, doesn’t exist for me. I don’t know what is to come, but I have faith in the belief that our Good Lord has some pleasant surprises for us beyond the threshold of our earthly lives. I find I draw confidence from Paul’s words, written in the Autumn of his life, in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing”.(NIV)
The evidence for God’s existence and His active role in our lives can be seen in many ways. The beauty of autumn is just one of them. So, please, let’s not live our lives as those who believe in naturalism, chance, and survival of the fittest. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things [what you need in life] will be added to you.”