During the summer there's a lot of growth. All kinds of growth. Some is wanted (food and flowers) and some is not (weeds and brush). It's almost an overwhelming amount of growth.
In the fall, that all changes. The growth slows and stops. And often we speak exuberantly about the lush and colorful harvests that flood in. This is a wonderful blessing. So wonderful in fact that it can be almost overwhelming like the growth that occurred before. All that IS good–and it IS the result of the summer growth. And in that fruit is the seed is so much more goodness still to come.
But right now, without discounting the beauty and goodness of the fall harvest, I want to talk about something else that is beginning in this season. Something less lush, but perhaps more important.
In the fall, the leaves fall off, and we can finally see what has really happened.
It is the woody growth in our trees that really matters. Its the stock and branch that stay till next year to start up again. That is the progress that DOESN'T recede. It endures, so it makes all the difference. The leaves come and go. They're quick, and showy, and and beautiful, but each year they die back and are gone. They are lovely...but its the woody growth that represents true progress.
So summer and all its glory comes to a close and all the active, and fluttery, and colorful growth falls away to reveal the hard won progress underneath.
This sets the stage for the good farmer to prune his trees.
With the leaves gone he can begin inspecting all the different progressions that exploded forth over the course of the growing season and select which ones are useful to the overall health and shape of the plant, and which ones have progressed in unhelpful directions. Perhaps the wayward branches will block sunlight from reaching lower or interior spaces in the canopy. Perhaps there are just too many secondary branches in a given area that will become too heavy for the primary branch. Perhaps the growth was damaged and creates an opening for disease to enter the tree. Whatever the reason, the farmer understands what growth is useful and helpful to the tree and which growth was a misstep. And during the pruning season, it is HIS job is to remove the unhelpful growth.
It takes a sharp and decisive cut to remove the growth. Some growth seemed good before but now must be removed to make room for something better. And it's not always just growth from the previous season. Sometimes the good farmer must prune larger and older growth to facilitate proper overall progress. And so he makes his cuts. Wise. Precise. Clean. Intentional. And merciless. All growth is under scrutiny. All growth is harshly evaluated in light of the farmers goals and the health of the tree.
And remember, pruning does improve a tree. It improves the trees fruiting and strength and health and can extend its life significantly. Pruning is good for the tree's overall health.
And so we have first a season of exuberance and activity and newness unfolding. The growth is lush and leafy which makes the branches difficult to discern. The growth is necessary as all the leaves are gathering in energy for the fruit and root and branch. The leafy activity is good and necessary and plays its part.
But it must also die back so the hard growth can be exposed for evaluation. And the growth must be thinned to reduce competition and a chaotic, self-destructive, and counterproductive tangle from resulting.
The same progression is also important for our own lives. In our life there are seasons of progress and activity and change. We do much, and learn much, and experience much, and in many ways, become new through our experiences.
But some of that activity is chaotic and cumbersome and the bad habits and painful experiences come in with the good. Left unchecked, those missteps and bad habits can begin to overwhelm us and choke out our best growth.
Which is why a season of reflection is necessary.
A season when our leaves are laid aside and we cease from bringing in new energy. When we cease initiating new growth. When we stop letting the new buds in our minds unfurl into activity. And not only is this season a cessation of new growth but also an active releasing of our attachments. We must LET those things fall away.
It takes time to let go of all the things we've become attached to. The release may feel like a bitter chill wind. It will be a kind of death. But the clarity that results is wisdom. We'll see which things were simply leafy shimmerings--exciting, and beautiful, and even important in their time (and yet fleeting). And, which things were hard and serious growth. The branches are seen in this season. Even the growth we cannot release is revealed. The growth in us that seems to be permanent (be that good or bad) is made known in the season of still, cold, and quiet reflection. This serious growth can be evaluated only when the activity and movement of the leaves stops and all our light attachments are released.
But stillness and clear eyed self-inspection, are not enough.
For true health we also need a good farmer to come with his judging eye. We need his harsh and merciless judgment to make the difficult decisions. And more even than his eye and discernment, we need his pruning shears to make the cuts we cannot make ourselves, releasing the unhelpful growth we cannot shake free of ourselves.
A tree must be entirely dormant before the pruning process begins. Too early and the sap is still flowing. The wounds will bleed. The tree can be seriously damaged. It's critical then that all summer activity has ceased and the energy of the tree has receded down to the roots.
Likewise, it's also essential that we become calm and quiet while we wait for the good farmer to make his cuts. We must turn our energy down, to our roots, and take on a posture of humility in preparation for pruning.
There is always some growth that we cannot let go of on our own. And there is always some growth that seems good to us in the heat and passion of summer, but doesn't help us become our true selves or to bear the best and sweetest fruit.
And for that unhelpful growth to be taken from us we must lay bare our true inner selves for the inspection of the one who tends us. We must let him make those difficult but corrective cuts that allow us to blossom all the more intensely and bear ever more fruit in due season.
That's what this fall season is for–yes, bearing our best fruit,--- but also, letting go of the growth that no longer serves His purpose or our good. It is a season for becoming still and open to the wise and judicious decisions of our father above. Quieting ourselves humbly before him so his work is not in vain and in due time we can pour all of our energy into the directions that he chooses for us to go in and thereby bear more and sweeter fruit then we ever could if left to our own wayward and chaotic attempts at "growth."
Christianity is indeed a spring-time religion, but may you see this fall the sober goodness of ceasing our mad progress so we can be renewed and reshaped by our loving father for the even more abundant spring that is still to come and and even more abundant harvest beyond that.
And now a toast–to letting our BEST fruit and our wayward growth fall away. So that we can be remade and reshaped by the one who tends us!