The heart in fall is, in a word, expectant. If we've prepared well in spring, plowing and sowing and planting, then we wait in an expectancy of hope. If we have not prepared well, we wait in an expectation of disappointment, may be dread.
"Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God," Hebrews [6:7] says. "But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned." One minor motif running through Hebrews is agricultural, the rhythms of planting and reaping ….
Agriculture is about patience and anticipation: we expect something to come from our efforts. The heart in fall especially lives with this expectation. It feels the weight of it, the heft and tug of what's coming. Let me change the image somewhat to illustrate.
It just turned fall a few days ago, but only today does it feel like fall. Up until now, days were warm and languid, and bright with the last burst of hibiscus and geranium. Everyone wore shorts and T-shirts, even in the evenings, and some still swam in the rivers. It dawned this morning looking like more of the same. But by mid morning, a grayness squelched the sun, a cold wind barreled down the sky, a chill spread through the house. And then a cold slathering rain began to fall.
So I started the season's first wood fire. The wood's been curing since last winter. I gathered an armload of it, plus a fistful of kindling, and started my fire. In a few minutes, it blazed hot and bright in the stove, the dry wood popping and sparking like firecrackers.
Then I went out and surveyed my woodpile. Just shy of three cords, I reckon. In a typical winter, I burn through three and a half. And if the spring is cool and wet, I'll push that close to four. I'm short of wood, then ….
Today, estimating in my head the shortfall, I felt in my heart a weight of disappointment. Though I knew about this problem way back, I hadn't felt the weight till now, standing in my shed with the wind howling at my back, the rain pouring off the eaves. Now the time to do something about it has come and gone. Now, I pray for a mild, brief winter.
That's a long story to remake a simple point—that the heart in fall fills up with anticipation. And that anticipation—joyful, dreadful, eager, resigned—has much to do with how we have stewarded our other seasons.
Copyright © 2010. Reprinted with permission of Zondervan Publishers.
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Spiritual Rhythm is available from ChristianBook.com and other retailers.
Previous articles by or about Mark Buchanan include:
Messy, Costly, Dirty Ministry | The risk of welcoming those nobody else wants. (Leadership Journal, May 15, 2009)
This Is It | What kind of groundwork leads to real community? (Leadership Journal, April 25, 2008)
Relentless Pursuit | Mark Buchanan examines the fruit of spiritual disciplines. (March 26, 2007)
Wreck the Roof | Are you willing to take apart the church to bring people to Jesus? (Leadership Journal, January 1, 2007)
Schedule, Interrupted | Discovering God's time-management. (February 6, 2006)
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