Autumn has always been my favorite season. The burnt oranges and reds of changing leaves paint the horizons with blazing new brushstrokes year after year as the weather turns cooler and the crunch of fallen leaves are heard underground. I welcome steady change and the faithful return of fall, skies blazing. The return for man’s work is a comfort and a constant echoed in this season.
Just mention the word fall and dozens of memories flood my mind:
A tall glass of sweet tea, the smell of fresh cut grass and the voices of football announcers on TV—these sights, sounds and smells trigger Saturday memories from my childhood autumns past. My dad worked full days in the hot Alabama sun and still managed to cut the grass just in time each Saturday. He would settle into his recliner with a large glass of sweet tea and enjoy a day full of college football. We talked about anything and then sometimes nothing at all, but it was the time we spent together that was important.
I also remember the smell and rich taste of homemade oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies my mom would bake and place in her handmade, hand-painted pumpkin cookie jar. She was called nearly every Friday to make her signature cookies, either for the football players or for some of my friends.
The sound of the high school marching bands, smells of concession stand cotton candy and nacho cheese chips, and the sights of fans donned in my high school colors of navy and gold echo in my nostalgic mind’s eye.
Add to these memories Saturday mornings painting and fixing up the football stadium with the cheerleaders and football players—the stadium that was the original venue my dad played in under the coaching of my grandfather; hay rides and the elementary school’s fall festival complete with the scary room and my favorite, the cake walk; and our church’s fall celebration and that completes the makings of my growing years’ fall season.
Fall summed up was faith, family and football.
My kids are too young to play football or cheerlead just yet and we live 500 miles away from my hometown. So, in many ways our autumn traditions look different, just as I am sure that yours do too. We make an annual trip to the pumpkin patch at a local Methodist church. We cruise Publix and try out different fall fresh varieties of apples that we joke is our “apple picking.” We pull out our favorite fall books and revisit old pages that celebrate the harvest season. We might even make it to one or two high school football games, but certainly college Game Day is on Saturday morning along with our college team’s game—only daddy watches from beginning to end. And let’s not forget a fall staple…pumpkin pie!
I think we are drawn to this changing of seasons, even in our homes where we don’t harvest any crops, because of the belief that rewards are coming for our toil. Our evidence-based belief (Hebrews 11:1) that heaven awaits those who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ is that faith which keeps us going. Fall symbolizes harvest and the promises of new life and growth fulfilled.
Whatever part of the world you call home, whatever weather patterns symbolize fall for you, whatever traditions that your family holds to—or lets fall to the wayside—autumn always preaches a message of redemption. You see, a harvest only comes subsequent to death and burial. Resurrection only resounds when something or someone has first come to die.
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels--a plentiful harvest of new lives. (John 12:24, NLT)
Our lives will only reap a harvest if we first come and die. Autumn should always teach us this lesson.
We all long to have our lives count—to make a mark that goes on beyond our final earthly breath. We must remember that the harvest of a God-honoring legacy comes only at the death of our wills and the faithful working into the soil of our obedience to God’s will.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Matthew 16:24-25, NLT)
Let the traditions of the autumn season lead you to the cross this year. Look for the spiritual lessons in the places you visit and the bounty of the season you enjoy. Listen and obey as God calls you to come and die so that He can reap a harvest in your life. Heaven awaits and the harvest is approaching—let’s set the heavens ablaze this season with obedient glory unto God.