I am a sucker for fall. I love the sights, sounds, and smells: halloween decorations, football on the TV, and bonfires. I like wearing jackets, vests, and sweaters. To complete the stereotype, I may even indulge in a Pumpkin Spice Latte or two before winter arrives.
And of course, like every other autumn-lover, I look forward to seeing the leaves change colors. I’m particularly fond of the Red Maple at my house, and the trees at PVCC along 141st Street. At this time every year, I admire those trees as I pull in and pull out of the church parking lot. Raking my yard can certainly be tiring and tedious, but the two weeks of bright colors make the few days of raking worth the effort.
But besides my cheesy and sentimental appreciation for fall, the changing and falling leaves can tell us something about God. Namely, two things:
First, they point to the orderliness of creation. God designed our world with purpose, rules, and a healthy sense of predictability. Sure, there are things taking place in our world that are VERY different from last year; but the most basic laws of creation remain the same. Every October, I expect the leaves to change colors and drop. Every morning when I wake up, I expect the laws of gravity to still apply the way they did when I went to bed. With every breath I take, I expect my body to still run on oxygen. And so far, I’ve been correct in those expectations; God hasn’t failed me yet.
The orderliness of the work of God’s hands tells us something about the character of God Himself. We can look at the reliability of our created world and trust that God is wise, faithful, and steady. In fact, he is unchanging; after all, why would one who is intrinsically perfect ever need to change? God is predictable in the best possible ways; he is not like the capricious, fickle, and easily manipulated false “gods” of the ancient world. The leaves changed colors and fell last year; they’re changing colors and falling this year. God is the same this year as he was last year. He can be trusted and relied upon.
Second, the changing leaves point us to God’s generosity. While that may seem like an odd connection at first, think of it this way: Did God have to make our world as beautiful as it is? The answer is no. However – for some reason – God chose to instill beauty into creation, and even after sin entered the world there is still beauty to be found. I’d argue that this is an example of God’s generosity. Instead of a world that is all black, gray, and bleak, we live in a world with countless impractical and unnecessary works of art: blue skies, pink sunsets, fluffy clouds, green grass, bright flowers, tall redwoods, and fall leaves.
Along with the order of creation, the beauty of creation likewise tells us something about God. Theologian John Calvin writes that through creation, God “invite(s) us to the knowledge of himself, places the fabric of heaven and earth before our eyes rendering himself, in a certain manner, manifest in them.” Calvin continues: “this most beautiful order of nature silently proclaims his admirable wisdom”. God is not only trustworthy and reliable; he is a generous and gifted artist.
It’s important to maintain the distinction between the work of God’s hands, and God himself. We do not worship creation; we worship the Creator. But the orderliness and beauty of our world ought to lift our eyes to the one who made it. Theologian Robert Letham refers to creation as “the clothes God wears to display his glory”.
Perhaps this is especially important to remember in a year of such disorder and ugliness. When you’re tempted to think that God has lost control in this year of shocking disruption and jarring change, remember all that has (mercifully) stayed the same. Fall is here, the way it should be; and God is still God. When you’re tempted to discouragement from all the ugliness of our world – illness, death, injustice, and unrest – focus on the beauty of creation, and the generosity of the Creator. Thankfully, the leaves in my front yard and at PVCC are just as breathtaking in 2020 as they were in 2019.
I like the leaves every October. But I especially like them this October. They remind me that this year, God is still God – no matter how different things feel compared to last year.