The last of the maple leaves fell today.
Autumn winds pressed, making red leaves dance, and they all found places to land. Now they scatter across the lawn, at the mercy of children who push them around and stomp them. It feels a lot like poetry.
“Before the leaves can mount again
To fill the trees with another shade,
They must go down past things coming up.
They must go down into the dark decayed.”
—Robert Frost, In Hardwood Groves
There’s a mysterious beauty in all this falling, an embedded reflection in the cycle of seasons.
Jesus talked about seeds falling to the ground to produce more seeds. About death leading to life.
Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. –John 12:24-25, NIV
Jesus was getting ready to produce more seeds, to give life to all. Like the kernel of wheat, He fell down to His death before being raised up to glory. His first disciples also followed Him to physical death, as martyrs. But there’s an important spiritual principle for all of us here.
To truly follow Jesus, we will be fully committed to Him, leaving no room for self-concern. This is what it means to “hate our life” and die to ourselves, in order to live.
Back in January, I asked God for a word for this year, and I immediately knew it was Victory.
I thought this meant that He wanted to bring me victory in some area of my life. When I think about victory, I usually think of winning, triumph, or success. I don’t think of surrender, of falling to the ground, or dying.
But each time Victory came up this year, the message was clear. Victory is found in surrender, in yielding, in dying.
Victory means allowing His strength to shine through my weakness. It’s taking joy in smallness. It’s giving up control, and falling into Jesus.
Doesn’t that seem a little upside-down? It didn’t line up with my idea of victory–as success. But sometimes we have our definitions all mixed up in this world.
So I stood outside this morning, watching trees release leaves at the peak of the season. I thought about how the leaves all fall down and the remaining branches look dead before they fill up with life again. I hope I’ll always remember fall as an illustration of surrender.