The Autumn Leaves Have Much to Teach Us

Seasons are good, and I’m glad I live in a place where we get a distinct taste of each of them.

“For everything there is a season,” writes the wise man in Ecclesiastes 3, “and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted . . .” and on he goes, pondering not really the seasons of the year so much as the “times” of our lives. Nonetheless, the deep truth he utters finds its root in the reality of the seasons.

A quick look out of our window this morning revealed a world very much in the midst of fall. Leaves dressed more beautifully than ever in their autumn bronze and gold finery, a heavy dew and a blanket of fog—enfolding, comforting, and oddly reassuring because, well, it’s time.

This time every year. The same scene. Always beautiful. Even though the marvelous, almost mystical, truth is that every leaf is different. You’ve never actually viewed the same scene twice—which is one of the things that makes it so faithfully and consistently wonder-filled.

Every shimmering leaf bears witness to a new and different sort of ethereal beauty, even as every leaf in quiet eloquence preaches its own farewell eulogy: “Get ready, children of earth; death is coming.” We knew that, of course, but it’s more than theoretical now and won’t be folded and forgotten, put away in a closet in the back of our minds.

No, the truth won’t be denied now. The green was beautiful in its time, stem-strong and vibrant, but its time passes like a ripple racing across a garden pond.

The leaves are destined to soon release but they won’t go without a show. Before they flame out, they flame-burst into fiery color, as brief a conflagration as it is gorgeous. A strong wind or two will both fan their fire and loosen their weakening grip as they let their leaf-lives go and gently, this way and that, dance their way down into their own “time to die.”

It’s a metamorphosis, of course, a change. Not the quintessential transformation of the green leaf-inching caterpillar bundling up in its cocoon to one day burst out in butterfly splendor. No, the verdant leaves are beautiful already and glorious. But one sort of glory gives way, even as release and death draw nigh, to the eye-popping surprise of a more brilliant and blazing glory.

The Apostle Paul’s spiritual eyes are sparkling with excitement as in First Corinthians 15 he points us to another incredible change. We see it all of the time, he writes. Now learn from it! A seed falls into the ground, dies and is buried, and then is born into new life. And so it is, he says, that for God’s people, the very death that seems to be the end of life is the planting of a seed. Christ’s own selfless sacrifice was the first planting in a furrow overshadowed by a cross but tilled into vibrant life by Resurrection power.

As Eugene Peterson paraphrases in The Message, “The corpse that’s planted is no beauty, but when it’s raised, it’s glorious.” Yes, “the seed sown is natural, but the seed grown is supernatural.”

Thank God for life that can grow deep and beautiful in soil enriched by joy and made fertile by, of all nutrients most expensive, pain. But don’t hang on too tightly. Trust the God of all the times of our lives. Believe him when he promises that what is coming will have its own glory, far surpassing all of our most hopeful dreams and fondest imaginations.

And don’t forget to thank God for the beautiful bronze and crimson leaves. Even as they let go, they remind us that something wonderful is promised and is coming.

You’re invited to visit my website at, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!

Copyright 2022 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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