Thank you to Ken Clark, one of our Lay Readers, for sharing this reflection.
In my recent walks, I along with many of you will have become aware of the beginnings of autumn. Despite the lingering Indian summer we know that change is coming. However we may feel about this it is a time when if we have a listening ear (1 Kings 3: 9), (1 Kings 19: 12) we can find God speaking to us. Autumn is a time of plenitude, of fulfilment in which the richness of nature becomes strikingly visible, it is also a time in which nature points beyond itself by the fragility of its passing beauty. As I walk through parks, woods and open spaces I often feel overwhelmed by the beauty of the changing landscape unfolding itself before my eyes.
The changing colours, the greens, yellows, browns, shades of red often dazzle me with their splendour. The sky is often full of mysterious cloud formations where often the sun breaks through making the cornfields and the surrounding land look like a golden tapestry, all these things together make a fantastic spectacle.
The beauty of autumn is unbelievable. Surely we can only say with the Psalmist “The hills are girded with joy, they shout for joy, yes, they sing” (see Psalms 65:12–13).
In a few weeks from now the colourful leaves will have whirled to the ground and the trees will be bare, a sense of death of the season and announcing the coming of winter with its cold, wet and possibly snow. It may be only be a few months before all the places we know and love will be white and covered with frozen snow. But we need to understand that in the greyness of winter there are rich powers at work that will show themselves again in the beauty of spring to those who have the patience to wait.
It would seem to me that this is such a parody of the spiritual life, because we know that out of seeming death springs life. We only need to remember our Lord’s death which led to a glorious resurrection and if we understand it correctly we will know from our own lives that often when we are in the place of difficulty and darkness that it is our God who comes to our aid, the same power that raised Jesus will bring us the reassurance, hope and deliverance we need and lift our hearts out of their despondency.
In these difficult times we need to take heart as we see the changing of the seasons and the lessons they teach us because they speak to us of the faithfulness of God and although our lives might be all over the place and there seems much that surrounds us and would play with our fears, our God is steadfast and unchangeable and he loves us however we may be feeling, he does not judge us on our feelings of inadequacy, a perceived lack of faith or failure and in his goodness lays our hope, trust and salvation.
I finish with a prayer I found by none other than Vincent van Gogh which speaks of the faithfulness of God. Let us savour it and be encouraged.
Today I thought of the sea. It is true there is an ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea. You are the sea. Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, you remain the same. Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover. Out of your love I came to life, by your love I am sustained, and to your love I am always called back. There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by your unwavering love. . . . O Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me not fear too much the storms and winds of my daily life and, and let me know there is ebb and flow but the sea remains the sea.