I’m not a fan of fall. I don’t know if I ever have been.
A friend of mine once called fall a “disease”. I believe him now.
My allergies are turning my sinuses into Defcon 5, my nostrils constantly flaring with itch and redness and congestion and sneezing.
My joints start to ache.
I never know how to dress. It’s winter weather in the mornings and hot summer by the afternoon. So is it leggings and a sweater or shorts and a T-shirt today? I’m going to be sweating in one and freezing in the other.
Fall colors aren’t always my favorite on the color spectrum. I prefer the bright green and pastel pinks and purples in the spring to the browns and maroons of fall.
It usually isn’t cold enough to kill mosquitos just yet, and spiders are being spidery in the corners of my porch.
But this season will end. It’s paving the way for another, and yet another. It’s life. It’s cyclical. It’s biblical.
For everything there is a season, 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;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace. — Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV)
Each week I drive to Memphis to attend Memphis Theological Seminary for a day’s worth of graduate school courses. It’s a 3-hour-15 minute drive, one way. I go down one day, and come back the next. I’ve got the road nearly memorized — there are lots of fields to and from. Through Graves and Fulton counties in Kentucky, we’re looking at a lot of corn, some soy beans, a little wheat perhaps.
Once you get into Tennessee, things change. Last fall, I drove past several fields and watched the green plants grow into big bushes not entirely unlike soybean bushes. But as the season went on, the bushes grew brown. At the end of September, driving through Bells and Brownsville, Tenn., I almost wrecked off the road. The fields I had driven by weekly were now covered in white. It looked as if a snow had come in the middle of the night.
The bushes I was driving by weren’t soy beans. They were cotton plants. And the bolls were just exploding into cotton balls ready for the plucking. This season, farmers are harvesting the cotton yet again, packing them into giant bales the size of tractor trailers I just want to dig my hands into.
The thing about cotton is this: It’s planted by the farmer in mid-summer. At its climax, it begins to bloom with flowers. It then spends the next few weeks turning to seed and fruit — the cotton bolls.
For us, we see the cotton bolls as the flowers -— but that’s not exactly the case. If you stop and pluck a boll, you’ll find that it’s infused with seeds, which means it’s the fruit — the produce of the crop. The cotton boll is preparing the future of the plant and the species. In the fall, that little boll should become the next year’s crop.
The Bible often uses agriculture to get the Israelites’ attention. They became agrarians, farming the land for its best uses for survival and to thrive and to eat. It wasn’t too hard for the Hebrew people to understand how the seasons of the crops around them could relate back to their lives.
So it is too in our lives. In your life. In my life.
God can use nature to remind us that a new time of life is coming. Your sorrow doesn’t have to be as poignant. Your exhaustion will go away with the rest that is coming. Peace won’t always last in the family. The wealth in your bank account may disappear in a blink of an eye.
But the good news is that God is steadfast. God is not a season. God doesn’t change.
My pastor, Rev. Curtis Franklin, talked this week about the times in the Old Testament when God seemed to “change his mind.” Usually, God is at the cusp of destroying mankind again, or at least the stubborn Israelites who make the golden calf or worship foreign gods.
God gets ticked. And God wants to kill.
But then someone, Moses or Abraham, talks God out of decimating the Israelites.
Did God change God’s mind? It looks like it.
But did God change God’s character attributes of being forgiving, loving, merciful, gracious and living out the covenant promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?
No. Those things can’t change otherwise God becomes a liar, vengeful and distrustful.
What God does is live into what and who we can trust that God truly is. Unconditionally loving — when what we need is to be burned up in a fiery furnace. Unconditionally merciful. Unconditionally forgiving. God changes his mind in order to prove that God IS those things.
No matter the season of our life, no matter the type of crop we’re harvesting — woe, happiness, sadness, grief, frustration — God is our steady constant.
Ready to love us when our faces are red from anger, crying or the itch of blooming ragweed.
Our seasons change, but God does not.
*part of this blog taken from a sermon delivered at the FCA Fields of Faith worship event in May 2017.