Summer doesn’t just end in my world. It comes to a crashing hault. I blame Labor Day. If we had no holiday to mark the end of practical summer, we’d hardly notice its passing. September would give us 30 days to make the transition (maybe 31 in Indiana, I never could figure out their time zones). We’d begin the month in shorts an T-shirts, end it in flannel jammies . The change would hardly be noticed.
Fortunately, life isn’t like that. I don’t recall hitting middle-age, but somewhere along the line it must have happened, because my back always hurts and I find it physically impossible to sit or stand without emitting some sort of noise. I tried, my body wouldn’t move without the little sound.
I say fortunately because society has placed certain norms on our behavior as we reach the big milestones. By the time you hit 20, you’re supposed to stop dropping to the floor whenever you see a puppy. I failed 20. When you hit 30, you’re supposed to prefer wine over cotton candy. I failed 30. At 40, you’re supposed to keep your eyes on the road and not become fascinated with the deer in the fields. I failed 40.
As far as I can tell, I’m still stuck on 10.
This is supposed to be the autumn of my life. Things should slow down. I should spend my evenings sipping brandy and watching a news channel. I do not. Instead, I roughhouse with my dog, grab my wife for a kiss as if we’d been married only a few days, and chase a publishing dream that more mature people would have given up on by now.
But I’ve always been one to look at fall not as an end to summer, but a harbinger of God’s beauty as seen from a different angle. A slight relocation of the camera. Some see death and cold. I see the cornucopia of colors and the lovely sting of a cold morning in my nose. Have you ever scooped up a handful of autumn leaves and held them to your face, inhaling deeply? I have. And I will again soon.
This is the difference between maturity and just getting older. I know plenty of people who are just getting older. They watch O’Reilly and rake the leaves quickly so they can watch the football game. The maturing realize that the wonder doesn’t have to leave us. It just changes camera angles. We’re still in awe of the same things that awed us as children, but the depth of our wonder has grown. We don’t just see a flock of geese. We see a flock of geese and know that it may have spent the previous day in northern Canada, flown over moose and vast prairies and red barns that smell of fresh cut hay and manure.
And we’d jump into the leaves.
The mature among us no longer see God as a parent who makes rules but loves us anyway. We see God as our loving father who set boundaries not on our happiness, but on our sinful nature so that it would not destroy our happiness. We see a God who is far too vast to understand with our simplistic little brains, but who will do everything to make Himself understandable to us.
This is my autumn. Where I see and understand more than I did as a young man, but still stand in childlike wonder and realize that I will never stop learning, never stop growing, and never stop pressing leaves to my face to inhale the scent of the universe. I hope you all will join me on my walk of wonder, no matter the season. Just grab a handful of leaves and some cotton candy. It’s sticky and messy, but mom’s not around to stop us.
Happy autumn. Let’s seize it before it’s time for a snowball fight.