Shades of Dying

If there was one thing I missed during my years in the Middle East, it was the seasons. There is nothing like fall in Tennessee, and this year was a beautiful reminder of how true that is, as the trees burst forth in color.

Yet, for as much as I love fall, I’m grateful the Lord doesn’t leave us in fall all year round. Even fall must give way to winter in order for spring to arrive.

As I took a drive to enjoy the colors of autumn, I was struck by a thought: All of creation is in various shades of dying. Even the trees in the fields reflected the different reactions to the reality of the dormancy to come.

  • Some trees drop their leaves at the first snap of cold. No time to change, just drop and and be done with it.
  • Others allow nature to turn their leaves a golden color or bright red before falling. They’re going out with a bang, so to speak.
  • Then, finally, there are those who hold onto their leaves, refusing to change color or fall. Their final death arrives as rot creeps through from the inside out.

We all give way to death. We are all dying. Some of us yield quickly, without purpose to sustain us, while many try to hang onto youth far longer than we should, until the rot of the inner man is revealed.

I want to be like the trees which allow the latter years to continue to bring beauty and purpose, while always aware of the need for down time and rest before the renewal of spring and new work.

Paul’s words to the church in Corinth shows me he was speaking out of a knowledge of the frailty of life:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you…Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 16-18 NIV

In Christ, we are in a constant state of dying to self, dying to the world, and dying to this physical body.

Dying is a daily reality, but it does not have to be a cause for despair, for life is also always at work in us. The regenerated life we receive from the Spirit enables us to flourish despite the death. It allows us to give up one life for the next to come.

The type of tree you identify with is an indication of whether you are living the “exchanged life,” as Hudson Taylor would say. As I grow old to this world, I will not just give it all up in despair or try to hang onto a life that’s not meant to last. No, I want to be the glorious deciduous tree that draws people to wonder at what makes me different at this “stage” of life.

I know that some seasons my leaves may be more alluring than at others, but they will continue to change, fall, and rest, returning with renewed vigor in the year to come.

Lord, may I be like a golden maple. Though in the autumn of life, let my colors shine forth to your glory before I fade and fall that final time. Keep me from letting my talents and gifts give way to aging fears and pain. Help me to accept change and years with the excitement, not tears, of seeing you shine in the fall of my days.

What kind of tree are you? Let’s go out with a bang by his…

Grace and Peace

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