The Beauty of Change

Fall is a beautiful time of the year. While every season has its grand features — spring with all the blooming flowers, summer with its magnificent green leaves and grass, winter with its stunning grayness, and winter’s occasional covering of white — it is fairly easy to make the argument that fall is the most dramatic, dynamic, color-splashed part of the year. The beauty of it is all produced because of change.

Change is rarely seen as a good thing. We want it to be, but it’s hard to figure it out sometimes that change will be better. Sometimes people think that older people don’t like change and they may not, but the truth is that young people often don’t like change. Children don’t like change. It may be unanimous consent that the only person who really likes change is a baby who needs a diaper changed.

I suppose when you analyze change, the reason people react to it negatively is because they typically try to get their nest made and the world around them fixed like they are comfortable. When something happens that brings about change, it’s going to be disruptive of what they’ve gotten used to. That is often true, but when it comes to the weather and the seasonal changes, none is more beautiful than autumn.

There is an entire industry of tourism built around the change of the leaves, especially up the eastern seaboard and across the northern states where there is a quick and dramatic change of temperature and light that bring about spectacular beauty. People plan trips and vacations into the areas where they can see the leaves that have changed. The beauty of change is an interesting thought because of what actually brings on the change and the beauty.

First of all, the dramatic beauty that we see before us in the fall with the changing leaves is produced by death. As the light changes and the temperature changes, the tree begins to react and soon death will come to all the foliage. Over a period of days, we will look in every direction and see death has taken place. The leaves go through their transition that has been there for months, quickly becoming beautiful yellows or reds or dramatic oranges. It doesn’t last long, but death has produced wonderful, unforgettable moments.

We have in our backyard two large maple trees. For over 25 years, I have watched them in the fall change and become shockingly glorious. This year, as with previous years, I rarely go through this time of the year without taking pictures of those two trees. When they are in full death mode, you just have to stop and stare and drink in the beauty of the moment. Soon, a front will come through. There will be rain, and winds will blow and quickly death will take away half of the dead leaves that were there and the others will go soon.

For most of us even in the Christian world, the world of resurrection and hope and future, we see death as a dark and dismal thing and yet, sometimes we miss the beauty of that change portion of life. We would do well to watch for that moment not just in our own lives but in the lives of those around us. There may be a window of opportunity to see the beauty of a person’s worth and life and joy that would never be available any other time.

I think about the Old Testament folks who, patriarchs as they may be, welcomed their children around them to share a blessing with them before they died. It’s an incredible moment. It can be celebrated oftentimes by all of us. I even think about Stephen in the New Testament when he was being stoned and dying and in that moment we saw him as he sees Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. What a moment! Brief, soon gone, but ever etched in our hearts. I think about our Lord Jesus who lived a perfect and spectacular life only to have His closing moments equally beautiful. Have you come to the foot of the cross and heard Him as He says, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46) and lovingly, gently, movingly His life rests in the hands of the Father and He is at peace?

As a pastor through the years, it has been my inescapable joy to watch as some saints of God have come to the last breaths and I was privileged – honored — to be there just to hold their hand as they stepped through the door of life everlasting. Truth is, we typically die as we live. When those saints died, there was a radiance that seemed to take on new dimensions but it was just like they had lived. They lived ready to serve and they were ready to die. When you look around this fall just realize that the beauty of change was brought on by death.

A second thing to remember is that change is brought on by breath. Let me explain because the fact is that oftentimes change has to have a new cycle of life. Strange as it may seem, the beauty we see in a tree changing its foliage is so the tree can reenergize, go into a period of dormancy during the cold stage, only to be ready and burst forth with new blossoms, new hope, new foliage in a few months is that feature about change that maybe is the most difficult for us to happen because it doesn’t happen immediately and it takes a new push, a new impetus, a new expression to bring us out of what seems to be lifelessness.

I suppose many facets of life go through that kind of change and it may not be welcomed because it may take a great deal of faith, hope, commitment, work to bring on the new expressions of life and we might have chosen just to stay comfortable and not be out of breath because of the hard work and commitment that we had to give, yet when you stop and think about it, oh, what that brings on. New opportunities and new vision. New relationships and new love. A new growth spurt in the bush or the tree’s life. There’s a beauty in change that may look like death and at other times requires breath.

The third and somewhat strangely when we see change being brought on by death and needing breath, we may lose sight of ‘neath. To look up the meaning of the word is to find that it means beneath. I think there is something that’s important about us facing change in life whether it’s in our health or our family or our work or our church or our government and on and on. ‘Neath meaning actually beneath may remind us that oftentimes we just miss the underlying realities of what God wants to do for us, how He wants to work in our lives, how He is at work patiently, quietly, and we need to trust Him and keep our eyes open to the mighty things He will do out of the small things that are changing.

Think about Moses. After being raised in the palace of the pharaoh, he ends up on the backside of the desert keeping sheep for his father in law. A menial job in a nowhere place and yet God was mightily at work in his life. We could miss it. He could miss it. It could be beneath all of us to see that God was up to something really big in the change that’s about to take place. A bush catches fire and Moses is curious. He begins to walk toward the bush that is burning but not consumed and wonders what is going on. A voice comes from the bush, the voice of God, telling Moses to take off his shoes for the ground “where you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). God was there.

While Moses may have thought life had passed him by and the dreams he once may have had had all died, in the breath to find a new occupation and a new direction in life had only led to wandering around with some sheep. God said, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me’” (Exodus 8:1). The birth of a nation was about to take place, but Moses didn’t realize it. Ten enormous miracles are going to take place, but Moses didn’t know that. Leading people to the edge of the Red Sea was dramatic but now demanded a miracle beyond anything he had ever dreamed of. Opening a sea so that they could walk across on dry ground. At times, some of the events of life may just be beneath us. We look over them, beyond them, fail to see the good that may be taking place, but God says don’t miss this. Don’t let it be beneath you. The small features and factors in your life, even this very day, are moments that God may be dramatically at work in your life to use you, bless you, guide you. Open your spiritual eyes today and in the world around you at this fall season celebrate the beauty of change.

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Dr. Jim Futral

Executive Director-Treasurer