I went to the dictionary to look up that word: “Fall”. It didn’t recognize it as a season other than pointing me to the word “Autumn”. So, I went there. It has two definitions. The first is: the season between summer and winter; fall. Ok, I got that much. Boy, that Webster sure is smart. I was looking for a more vivid desciption, maybe a metaphorical one for me to reflect on. The second definition did the trick: a time of full maturity, esp. the late stages of full maturity or, sometimes, the early stages of decline: to be in the autumn of one’s life. That one hit the mark! Especially since I’ve heard the news anchors talking about the trees in our area being in full bloom. I even told my wife yesterday when I heard them say that. “They’re in full bloom today, but by this time next week there won’t be a leaf on the tree.” The tree sort of becomes the symbol of life.
What is true of a tree can be true of a life. When we are at full maturity we can, at the very same time, be in the early stages of decline. It doesn’t look like it. In fact, people may applaud our beautiful outward beauty, oooh and ahh at our “maturity”, and even come from miles around to see us. But when the winds of winter blow hard the maturity wasn’t maturity at all, instead it was the early stages of decline.
David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, the greatest king the nation ever knew didn’t “fall” when he was fighting lions and bears and giants. He didn’t decline in his days running from the crazy king Saul. Those were days of humility and dependence. Instead it was at the height of his reign as king. When he didn’t even have to fight his own battles any more. While his soldiers fought, he could casually walk on the patio of his mansion. (2 Samuel 11–Notice it was the spring of the year. It would have been better for my blog had it been the fall. Oh well, what are you going to do?). It was then in the stage of seeming “full maturity”, when sin silently and slowly did it’s thing.
It’s hard to stay vibrant and strong in the height of growth isn’t it? It’s somehow easier when the trees are stripped bear and the dead grass is covered in snow to hunger and thirst for the warm growth of spring and summer. I’ve heard or read someone who said something like, “For every 10 people who can stay strong in the bad times there is only 1 who can stay strong in the good times.” You would think it would be the opposite but it’s not. The most significant times of growth in my life have been in bad times. Crisis moments. When I taste fear. When the smell of death is in my nose. When I can see my failures. When I hear the insults. That’s when I trust easiest.
We have come off a very successful summer of ministry. Crew has grown like never before. While many ministries often experience a summer lull, God gave us a summer explosion. It really did seem like everything we touched bore fruit. I don’t want that to end and I don’t know that it is ending. I just know it’s Fall and I also know that God doesn’t always work like that. A man much smarter than me wrote, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,” He doesn’t tell us when those seasons end in ministry, but experience and history show that those seasons in a ministry do come and go.
But you know what? Those spiritual seasons in our personal life don’t have to come and go. We can always be vibrant and growing and in full bloom in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Psalm 1:2-3 says, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night, He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields it’s fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” It’s like San Diego all year round in our spiritual lives. Wow! Jermiah, who was in a constant state of dependence and who cried so much he was known as the weeping prophet, wrote, “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on the flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush (be careful how you handle that, poly psy majors!) in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water, that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; it’s leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
Hang in here just a little longer. I want to make some observations about these verses and this season:
1. Prosperity Always Comes, But We Don’t Always Experience It. See it there in Jeremiah? “when it comes”. It’s going to come, but are we going to experience it. While prosperity is on the loose there are a few bushes that stay isolated and dead. Will the times of impact in Huntington be experienced by other ministries while ours feels parched and lonely? Or even while Crew is experiencing prosperity in ministry, I can personally be left out because my heart is depending on my own ability and my own pride. Remembering the days of summer while I wither away.
2. Heat Always Comes, But It Doesn’t Always Stop Us. This is the flip side, the contrast, of the first. The verses says, “when the heat comes”. The hard days are there too. There are a lot of hard days. It says heat here which brings the idea of drought and scortching. And the point is clear. It is a time of death and decline. Fear and worry. But that doesn’t determine our impact either. Because with a confidence in God and an abandoned trust in Jesus Christ I can flourish like any other time. Fear is replaced with confidence. Worry is replaced with a God centered trust. That produces fruit all year round. My fruit. Our fruit. Your fruit will never fail to produce in a season like that.
So, may we trust in God for at least 4 seasons a year. May we never yawn as we pass a tree. May we always grow and grow and grow, even as we smell dead leaves. And may the Season Maker be the one we love most.