Once a month, I write a short piece for our church’s print newsletter, the Circuit Rider. This publication was established fifty years ago, when the pastor at that time asked a legal secretary in the congregation to be the editor. Jo put together the Circuit Rider every month for fifty-plus years, until she joined the Church Triumphant on October 1st.
Here’s the article for this month’s Circuit Rider. It’s in memory of Jo, who I’m sure has heard her Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Are you one of those people who suffers from melancholy this time of year? I first noticed how falling leaves affected my mood when I was still in junior high. I remember walking home from school one day, trying to put my finger on a word for the emotion I was feeling, and not having much success.
There was a kind of sadness at the end of summer, as flowers faded and gardens were put to bed for the winter, but there was also awe at the beauty of leaves turning orange and red and gold, the crisp air, and the deep blue backdrop of the fall sky. Even at the tender age of 13, I was overcome with the power of memories, and the relentless march of time that seems more potent in autumn as the year draws to a close.
Nostalgia seemed a good word, but it still didn’t quite fit the way I felt. I never did find a term for it. As an adult, I’ve discovered that many people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in late fall or winter, and the symptoms seem to go away when sunnier spring weather arrives. For me, it’s the beginning of autumn that triggers these emotions, and once the snow starts to fly, I’m fine! So I’m not sure SAD is really my problem.
One thing I do know, and I learned this from watching my uncle farm his land in western Kansas: the life cycle never stops. Even when things look dormant, something keeps the cycle going so that new life can sprout and grow and flourish. A great example of this is winter wheat, a crop that gets planted in the fall, before winter sets in. To develop into a good harvest, the wheat must experience sustained cold over the winter months, the very time of year when you wouldn’t normally expect plant life to survive.
It may seem, at times, that our spiritual lives suffer from SAD, that we have a hard time sensing God’s presence through difficulties and pain. We may get caught up in memories and regrets that prevent us from seeing the future God is putting in front of us. But God is not dormant. Like winter wheat that must experience extreme cold for part of its growing season, we are being formed into new life, life that will bear good fruit.
“You did not choose me but I chose you.
And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last,
so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.” ‑ John 15:16