We’re reminded of that fact officially as we move our clocks back this first weekend of the month. The presidential election just after that has filled the airwaves with debates, commercials and promises of a shift in one direction or another in the political arena as the chair in the Oval Office is once again up for grabs. Even the vacillating temperatures outside contribute to the unsettling upheaval of things as we’ve known them recently, as the onset of winter rains and whipping winds rip the last of the leaves off the trees, filling the world we walk through with their communal downward dance.
Surely the leaves drop and the clocks fall back and elections occur regularly as scheduled, year after year after year. But this year I’m noticing some strange transformations happening in me, in the thoughts that fill my mind and the activities that fill my days. My personal colors seem to be changing, and things I’ve held on to tightly for seasons past are now dropping at my feet and being simply kicked aside as I move on with my life. Individually they are as insignificant as one leaf on a tree filled with the same, but when they all start falling at once, it causes me to look up and wonder what on earth is going on.
Like I said, they are little things. Like the Saturday morning I ran into town after a big family breakfast to knock some errands off my to-do list. Amazingly I found a parking space in front of the gift store I needed to visit and went inside. Business done, I came back out and looked longingly at the Starbucks franchise that was directly across the street. Although I had time on my hands and a gift card in my purse, it was the calorie expenditure I couldn’t afford on that particular day…so I got in my car and drove away! No earthquake split the street before me and the sky didn’t fall, but in my own personal world, that moment was HUGE.
One weekend later family tradition found us at a small local festival, walking a street lined with vendors selling food and hand-crafted items of all kinds. When it comes to purses I’m a firm believer in the bigger, the better. I stash everything from an occasional bottle of pop to my laptop in mine, and thus I never buy small bags. Yet that day I bought one that was flat and thin and hardly wider than my fingers could stretch. Doubtful that I’d make it a week without switching back to a bigger version, I dubbed it as an experiment, to see if I could function without carrying my life around with me in my hands all the time. I’ve had to make a few adjustments in the way I do things, but overall it seems to be working.
Actually, I would have walked right on by that vendor’s booth had it not been for one piece of fabric on an otherwise denim blue bag that sucked me in. None of the other bags hanging around it interested me in the least, but the autumn leaf print on the quilted border on the one caught my eye and hooked me, perhaps the way God hoped the changing colors of my daily routines would catch my attention and look to Him for an explanation.
Clearly I’m experiencing a paring down, and not just on the digital read of the bathroom scale and the amount of clutter I carry around. Things I’ve told myself were absolute necessities I’m now suddenly able to put aside and adapt to life without. But to what purpose? And is it just for a season, or are these lifestyle changes of longer duration?
I think back to when Jesus sent out the seventy-two disciples and told them not to take along a purse, bag or sandals. Later He asked them if they had lacked anything during that time, and they answered that they made out just fine. Perhaps the purpose was to teach the lot of us that our joy and peace as well as our daily sustenance are not found in the things we consume or carry about in this life, but in the One who carries us. He frees us from the burden of our own provision that we might concentrate instead on Kingdom purposes and His business.
I’m reminded of the passage in John 15 in which Jesus said He is the Vine, and we are the branches. He explained that every branch of the vine that bears no fruit is cut off, and those that are fruitful are pruned for greater production. Surely there are aspects of my existence that bear no fruit in the heavenly realm; they use resources of money, time and energy but nothing of eternal value comes out of them, and so they must be eliminated. Meanwhile God prunes and refines the spiritually productive areas in my life so that they can be even more effective. .
Throughout His years of ministry on earth Jesus was constantly looking about Him for fruit. He looked not only for figs on trees, but faith in His followers, and every time He ran into somebody with even a mustard-sized portion of it His eyes lit up and His heart beat a little faster…the moment was an occasion for joy. And even yet today He looks for love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control …the fruits of the spirit… to be evident in the lives of you and me. Oh that He could likewise find in our hearts and lives a similar reason to rejoice!
Recently I mentioned to my husband that I’d made my last trip to the state park near us for the year. When my he questioned me on it I tried to explain that the brilliance of the fall color is over for the year, the leaves are on the ground, and the bare stems are simply depressing to me. Already I find myself looking forward to spring, when there‘s new life bursting up from the ground and out of every branch tip.
In much the same way I feel a little disturbed at the changes taking place within me. It seems at times that there’s an awful lot of loss. But neither does God like the sight of a barren life that bears no fruit. So I welcome the spiritual pruning and cutting away that’s going on now if it means that days from now God will similarly be able to rejoice in the springtime of my soul and delight at the sight of the fruit that He finds there.
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
(John 15:11 NIV)
(John 15:11 NIV)