Monday, December 12, 2005

Autumn Leaves and Resurrection

It's already December, but in Memphis, some days still have very much a fall feeling to them. And every fall, the piercing blue skies, crisp air, and turning leaves take me back to my freshman year of college.

Fall had always been my favorite season, and on this particular day I was sitting with one of my favorite people, my piano teacher from high school.

The year was not going well. The rigors of a music major, three part-time jobs, my own deep well of insecurity, and too many nights of too little sleep, had led me into a very dark place.

At the time I hated that the world outside was so beautiful and that I was unable to enjoy it or even to appreciate it. I was living behind the invisible wall of an anxious depression, and I hated being so vulnerable to its attacks.

My teacher knew me well. She knew I had been behind this wall before. She knew that she couldn't "fix" me. She listened to me, she loved me, and she shared something that returns to me every fall.

As we sat there in her car behind the science building, leaves on the trees around us were partly colorful and partly still green. The reason leaves are green, she reminded me, is that they have chlorophyll in them. The chlorophyll is there only for as long as the leaves need it to get the tree through that summer season of its life. It is temporary.

When fall comes, the chlorophyll has served its purpose and is no longer needed. As it drains out of the leaves, only then do we see the leaves’ true colors. The vibrant reds, yellows, oranges, and even the cozy browns reveal the real leaf that has been forming over the past season as it interacted with sun, rain, wind—and, yes, with the chlorophyll, too.

“I like to think,” my teacher said, “that in heaven we will be like the autumn leaves. Our true colors, our real selves, will finally be revealed. All the things of earth that had to be a part this season of life won’t be part of us anymore. Only the truest part of us will remain.”

It wasn’t exactly a science lesson, so I’m sure the analogy breaks down at some points. But the message never has left me:

Someday His light will reveal the person He created me to be.

Not the one so colored by my current trials, temperament and troubles.

Someday I will see who I was meant to be.

About fifteen years later, I sat on another campus, this time in a theology classroom, and listened as another teacher painted a picture of hope.

As he put it, when the new heaven and new earth are revealed, we will no longer need the blood, food, water, air and whatever else we depend on for earthly life. We will be completely sustained by the Spirit of God.

God will be not only the light that shines on us, but the food that nourishes us, the water that we drink, the very stuff of which we are made. Somehow, He will completely fill us and at the same time make us completely the individual people He created us to be.

Of course the truth is that He is already doing the work, just as the leaves grow and produce sugars and whatever else they do all summer long. We just can’t always see them, filled with “chlorophyll” as we are.

But someday we will see who we were meant to be.

A few weeks ago as my husband and I drove down country roads in the Ozark mountains, stunned by the dazzling glory of light and leaves, I wondered how anything could be more beautiful.

If God can turn an earthly forest into such a display of His glory, how glorious will it be when He fills our very selves with Himself? And lets us see our own and each others’ true colors?

Because then we will see Him as He is.

And because He Is Who He Is, we will--at last!--be who we are.


Lawrence Underwood said...

What a beautiful picture of our blessed hope! Thank you. And, yes, I've been reading :) I also need to spend some time in my 'green chair' - although it is camoflauged.

RPorche said...

Great thoughts, Sheila. Thank you for sharing.

MiRiAm said...

Sheila, I think I hear an symphony orchestra gently playing in the background when I read your posts! How do you do that? Thanks so much for sharing your heart, your soul and your yearning for the divine. I am so blessed by you.

Lisa said...

As a Narnia fan, your words reminded me of Aslan's cry "Further up and further in!" I loved Lewis' depiction in The Last Battle. The new earth was everything good and familiar about Narnia, but "more real and without any of the darkness."

Oh, Sister, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!