October is about the best month of the year at least in terms of nature's beauty. The mix of red, yellow, orange, green in the leaves on the trees can just stop me in my tracks! Plump Pumpkins everywhere! In the fields and gardens, in front of the grocery stores, on the porches in my neighborhood - - not to mention pumpkin latte signs luring me to the coffee shop. Chrysanthemums! bunched in dark maroon, rust, yellow, purple, all coming to life after a summer of dormancy. Fields of purple asters and Black-eyed Susans.
October is harvest month. I have a single tomato plant in a pot on my back porch that has been a very productive little plant, supplying us with little red fruits with the taste of summer in them. Now, in October, the leaves are tuning brown, but the plant has had a burst of creative energy, and as I write there are eleven little green tomatoes drawing life from the branches and slowly turning pink and red.
On a grander scale, across the land harvest is at its fullest, with the tall green corn stalks yielding their bounty and apple orchards laden with fruit for the winter. There are beans and cucumbers and peppers and squash waiting to be pickled or canned or frozen to provide our food for the winter.
The background for this color-laden scene and the fullness of God's providence is the incredible rich dark blue of the sky on a clear day, a color that is like no other time of the year! All of this can just lift one's spirit and open the heart to be filled with gratitude for God's great creative genius.
But there is another side of October that is more sobering. It is a season of endings too. Those colorful leaves will turn brown and die and fall to the ground. The ripe harvest will be stored in silos and barns and freezers and canning jars as reminder that winter is coming. There will soon be frost on the pumpkins and the pumpkin latte on the signs will turn to peppermint. Even the blue sky will give way to the gray overcast of November.
There are seasons of joy and seasons of sadness in life. Seasons of joy are energetic times of gratitude and creativity. Seasons of sadness or worry or fear sometimes seem endless and lonely, and cause us to question God's plan for our lives and our world.
An author that has had a great influence on my faith life is Thomas Merton. As a Roman Catholic monk he spent much time in seclusion in an abbey in upstate New York called the Abbey of Gethsamene. One of his writings is "The Genesee Diary" in which he wrote of his experiences and his prayers during his time in the abbey.
A short passage from this book is one that I have kept on my desk and in my heart for many years. It deals with his thoughts during a spiritually dark time. It can speak to those difficult times when we question God's providence.
Merton begins with a quote from the psalms: "As the mountains are round about so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth now and forever."
He goes on, "It was true. I was hidden in the secrecy of God's protection. He was surrounding me constantly with the work of His love, His wisdom and His mercy., And so it would be day after day, year after year. Sometimes I would be preoccupied with problems that seemed to be difficult and seemed to be great, and yet when it was all over, the answers that I worked out did not seem to matter much anyway, because all the while, beyond my range of vision and comprehension, God had silently and imperceptibly worked the whole thing out for me, and had presented me with the solution. To say it better, He had worked the solution into the very tissue of own life and substance and existence by the wise incomprehensible weaving of His providence."
I hope that this passage might resonate with you whether you are experiencing a time of autumn joy or a time of autumn sadness in your spiritual life. When times are difficult we can remember that God is working behind the scenes, outside of our limited vision, to bring contentment and joy to us and to each of God's children. The one great constant in our lives is God's loving care for us and God's desire that we experience love, joy and peace in his presence.
May it be so for you.
Pastor Nancy Becker