Though the Grass Withers and the Leaves Fall

The Word of the Lord Endures Forever

Will Ryan / 9.29.22

Autumn — or “fall,” if you’re not quite as pretentious as I am — is my favorite season. In my corner of the world, it has the best weather; who can beat highs in the 70s/60s with lows in the 50s/40s? It has the best food: fresh apple cider, pumpkin pie, and Thanksgiving dinner. It has the best activities: football, apple picking, hayrides, and bonfires. It is just simply the best.

But the problem with fall is that it is a season of transition. Unlike summer or winter, there is no settling into the season. It changes constantly, moving from hot to cold, light to dark, running to staying. As soon as it starts, it seems like it’s winding down. As soon as you see fall accouterments in the store, Christmas ones have taken their place. As soon as you find yourself appreciating the falling leaves and the way you can see your breath in the morning, the trees are bare and you can’t step outside without dying from exposure.

Maybe this isn’t so much a problem as it is a reality of life, this feeling of being unsettled, in transition, not yet having arrived. Because, I don’t know about you, but I long for that sense of accomplishment; I have a hunger to “make it;” I want to feel like I’ve arrived. But that feeling is fleeting, as soon as I do something good (or at least someone else affirms that I did something good), it’s on the next thing. It seems life is always one of movement, transition, and change.

Have you checked your hair in the mirror recently? If it’s anything like mine the hairline has moved back and there’s more salt than you’d like amid the pepper. It’s soccer season now, sure, but sign-ups for swim lessons, dance, t-ball, piano, and the ilk have already started. It seems like Ordinary Time has been a slog and will never quit, but don’t look now because Advent is less than two months away. Have you made all your plans for the veritable onslaught of Advent/Christmastide?

If you are able to stop, you’ll probably feel whiplash because of the nature of life. It’s like being in perpetual motion always looking beyond the current moment. As soon as autumn arrives, it transitions away into something else.

But then there are those times when something sudden happens and you’re forced to switch things around. It’s not a gradual transition, but an abrupt one.

Just as we feel like we get settled into the new school routine … BOOM! Our toddler cries out in the middle of the night because she’s coughing up a lung and her throat is sore. A quick pivot to working from home in fits and spurts. Or just when I feel like I’m getting into a groove with exercise and health … BOOM! My body reminds me I’m not as young when I kick a soccer ball and promptly pull my quad. I’m relegated to hobbling around for a week, making sure to tell everyone I’m fine (I wasn’t). Just when it seems like Fall programming is kicking off well and things are running smoothly … BOOM! My wife tells me our calendar was already booked for when I planned a big event at church. I’m forced to call around, begging and pleading for a replacement fill-in.

Are these changes I’ve been forced to make recently self-inflicted? Sure. It’s what I get for living with a toddler, or thinking age hasn’t quite caught up with me, or making incorrect assumptions about my schedule. Are these changes relatively minor? Of course. My daughter is already back at school, my leg already shows no lingering signs of harm, and I’ve already got a plan in place for the event. But they were still transitions I had to make, hindrances to how I expected my life to go this season.

They are forerunners to those moments that aren’t movements, transitions, or changes, but tragedies that threaten to pull one asunder. The doctor comes back from the routine check-up with news no one wants — they’ve found something. You are awoken in the night by a phone call you didn’t think you’d ever get — they can’t find him. There’s a ping letting you know there’s an email from your boss and the first line you read makes your stomach drop — “We are thankful for your service, but … ”

Life on this side of the Fall is transitory at best, catastrophic at worst.

I suppose that’s why Christian faith is a comfort to me. Its power doesn’t come from my ability to ride the wave of change as it crests over my life. Its truth doesn’t rely on my capacity to endure blow after blow to my plans for how my life is supposed to go. Its constancy isn’t affected by the changing days, weeks, months, or seasons.

God is who God is. Moses learned as much when his life made a sudden transition on Mount Horeb with the burning bush. I’m sure if Moses stopped and looked at his path in life, he could see the trail leading to the point of staring at the marvel, but life from that point on would never be the same. It marked a transition, and amid being called to bring God’s people out of Egypt and into a land flowing with milk and honey, Moses needed some reassurance. His life was moving from one season to the next and he needed to know there would be some permanence to it all.

Moses said to God, “If I now come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they are going to ask me, ‘What’s this God’s name?’ What am I supposed to say to them?”

God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am. So say to the Israelites, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’”(Ex 3:13-14)

God is who God is. Through the changing of the seasons. Through the movements of the world. Through the transitions that come in life. God is who God is. That’s why the Psalms repeatedly talk about God as being “steadfast.”

But it isn’t just God’s constancy that is comforting or even good news. It isn’t God’s steadfast nature, but God’s disposition toward humanity, toward you and me. God is inexplicable but intractable for us. God is steadfast and loving. God loves us: This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins (1 Jn 4:9-10).

God came and lived as one of us, dealing with the sins of the world through Jesus’ sacrifice, that we would live; that’s an enduring promise that stands true even among the vagaries of life. Through faith, we live through Jesus, not our experience of our transitory world.

The way God feels about me doesn’t change with my feelings toward how my life is going; Jesus’ work on the cross isn’t canceled out if the transitions I experience overwhelm me. God’s steadfast love endures just as assuredly as summer turns to autumn and autumn turns to winter. Though the grass withers and the leaves fall, the word of the Lord endures forever (1 Pet 1:24-25).

So as you move about autumn: enjoying the weather, eating the food, and doing all the activities (Lord knows our calendars are full!), I hope you might trust in the unfailing goodness of our God. No amount of change in the seasons or in our world can or will change God’s steadfast love for you.

Good news indeed.

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One response to “Though the Grass Withers and the Leaves Fall”

  1. Elizabeth F. Spain says:

    You have excellently put into words the dilemma and the timeless Truth. Blessings!!! Libby

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