I used to love autumn. I know I’m not alone in believing the beginning of fall feels more like a new year than January 1.
School sets up fall to be a time of new things: new clothes, new books, new things to learn, and maybe even new friends. As an introvert, I enjoy the coziness of fall–grabbing a warm beverage and reading in a cafe while rain patters onto the windows. I’m generally more comfortable with more clothes on, not less: soft, long-sleeved sweaters, a scarf swirled around my neck.
Summer is like an enthusiastic friend with a wide smile imploring you to go outside and feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Go for a walk–or even a run! Play in the back yard. Work in the garden. Eat outside. Summer is fun. But summer feels like a time to do things, even if they are mostly fun things, and sometimes the pressure to do things can wear me out. Fall beckons me to sit, read and write, reflect.
As the summer drew to a close this year, I found myself dreading fall. I was even a little angry about it. I wanted to slap pumpkin spice lattes out of people’s hands. Then I remembered I used to love fall and thought, What’s going on?
I realized it’s not fall I’m dreading, it’s February.
I’m already looking ahead to the end of a winter that always feels entirely too long. In the fall, the darkness and slight chill in the air is just enough to let my spirit and body take a rest. By the end of winter, when the Christmas cheer and twinkle lights have burnt out, the darkness seems excessive. I want to feel the sun on my face again, to not have to check the forecast for rain, to go for a walk after dinner as the sun sets.
But I can’t live my life in fear of February. My tendency to live in the future (real or imagined), if I’m not careful, steals the joy from the present.
There might be some really difficult moments ahead for me, but I can’t let those be my focus. My focus should be on the long game, a lifetime characterized by both bright and shining moments of glory and everyday moments of faithfulness, joy and love.
Psalm 30 says “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
Rejoicing is the light shining after every dark night. Rejoicing is what I should be anticipating, because it’s renewable.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice. […] He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Psalm 112: 4-7
As we enter into fall, I want to focus on the right things: grace, compassion, generosity, justice–things that bring light to my heart. It can be depressing when it’s dark outside. I can’t do anything about that. But I can keep the darkness from creeping into my heart.