As a little girl in the Caribbean, I never experienced the distinctive beauty of four seasons. So in my fertile imagination as an avid reader, I imagined what each season was like and how I would experience it if given a chance. When my family moved to New York in the spring of 1978, with its promise of new beginnings came my opportunity to confirm my thoughts about the seasons.
When we emigrated, there was nothing spring-like about that time of year except the calendar, since New York had recently experienced one of the worst snowstorms in its history. I distinctly remember the cold, being woefully underdressed and ultimately frostbitten. I saw other kids playing outside at recess though there were piles of melting snow around the playground and instantly decided that spring was not what I envisioned and therefore it was not for me.
But as I got acclimated to my surroundings, I slowly but surely came to enjoy the beauty of autumn.
There were many evenings as I walked home from school down a long city block that I took great pleasure in strutting through piles of brown leaves and listening to them crunch beneath my feet. That crunch brought such pleasure that I changed my path to walk where the leaves fell.
My uncle caught me one day as I invariably smiled as those leaves were crushed, and he said, “You really enjoy that don’t you?”
I might have smiled and yelled, “YES.”
Crackle. Crackle. Crackle.
The scientific name for this process is called abscission, which means to cut away. It is the natural detachment of parts of a plant, typically dead leaves or ripe fruit. Abscission, though natural, happens because the tree is not receiving chlorophyll which is the light absorbing mechanism.
Perhaps we all need to have leaves shed during the autumn of our lives. Lifeless leaves that aren’t receiving the Light of Christ.
Lifeless leaves that show up in hardened attitudes and hardened hearts toward those that we are called to love – our families, our neighbors, and our community. Comatose leaves of divisiveness, jealousy, envy, and all the ills they bring need to fall and then be crunched underfoot. Leaves of harsh words and impure thoughts that wreak more harm and do no good. Leaves of pride and false attitudes.
Jesus knew we weren’t impervious to these leaves – He promises to prune us so that we can yield more fruit creating opportunities for new and fruitful beginnings. (see John 15:1-8)
Periodically our dead leaves need to fall and be crushed.
Falling leaves being crushed underfoot is one of my favorite autumn memories because they signify growth and necessary change and this change was music to my young ears. As a child, I recognized that like those tall trees on my block we too have the opportunity to grow by shedding. As we grow in our walk with Christ, our dead leaves will fall off our trees.
Crackle. Crackle. Crackle. The welcome sound of new beginnings.