Autumn is in full swing in the northern hemisphere. Here in the Tucson area, the morning temperatures are finally dipping into the 60s, while the afternoon highs are in the 80s. While that might seem like summer to some, for us it’s a welcome break from a range of 80–110! Over the past two weeks, I’ve been posting Instagram photos with bright autumn colors—though the subjects are flowers and fruits rather than colorful foliage!
Cycles are inevitable in nature. Seasons change. Light and dark dance together, waxing and waning over the course of the year. My garden is reflecting that change. The temperatures may still be warm, but the waning light has caused many plants to slow their growth and focus instead on ripening in anticipation of an upcoming frost. (While in Tucson that frost might not happen at all, and certainly not until December or January, the genetics in these plants are not operating on any sense of geographic location!) Plants know that life is one long sequence, comprised of seasonal cycles, but too many of us have lost touch with that basic fact.
In this culture, we presume that any trajectory must always move upward. Witness the presumption that the stock market will always rise, incomes will always go up, and we can always squeeze more production out of every plant—be it melon or manufacturing, cotton or computer. But there are much more fundamental—dare I say genetic—forces at play. We need cycles of exuberant growth, but also of decline (and both big and little deaths), then rest and recovery. Without these cycles, every plant—and every human—will inevitably burn out. When we force everything to always reflect a trajectory of more, more, more, we are losing touch with the fundamental cycles of our nature.
Seasonal changes are part of the reason for this reflection, but I’m still pondering the wise words of many teachers at the CAC’s Conspire conference last month. Last week I talked about welcoming the unknown as an opportunity for embracing change. Here are some comments and questions that caught my attention from a discussion between Barbara Brown Taylor and Brian McLaren:
Everything is changing so everything is possible.
Should we ask, “What’s going to happen?” so we can adjust to change? No! Let’s ask, “What needs to happen and how can I help?”
Deepen a conversation whenever you see the chance.
I’m also pondering the chaos in America today. There’s no question it’s been a tumultuous week in politics and in our communal social life. I dare to hope that these events signal the decline and demise of an oligarchy that no longer cares about the people they were elected to represent. From my perspective, change cannot happen soon enough. While I am not called to run for office, I am called to help. I’ve reached out to my legislators and made my opinions known. I’ve prayed with and for people who are in pain because #MeToo. I pray about what else I can do to make change happen, because everything is possible, and I have definite beliefs on What Would Jesus Want.
In this season of descent into chaos, I invite you to move from a defensive, “What’s going to happen?” to a proactive, “What needs to happen and how can I help?”