Midnight and Autumn

This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

                                                                                                       Ecclesiastes 2:26

It’s midnight.

It’s Thanksgiving, technically at least. Which concerns me not a whole lot, really. I try to give thanks as often as I can, and it seems a bit superfluous to me to set aside a day to do that which we ought to do every day. Much like imposing the idea of ‘Jesus’ birthday’ upon Christmas… We the believers are meant to celebrate Christ all day, every day. I say, let Christmas be what it has come to be – a day set aside for love and family, for presents and candy for the kids, for we all too often miss those things during the year. Let Christ have all the days, not counting it at all disrespectful that Santa Claus shares December 25th.

But I digress…

It’s Autumn. Normally this sort of season falls in mid-to-late October, but it came late this year. Only now are the trees in the full bloom of their imminent, seasonal death. Only now is the sun weakening in its ability to warm the earth. Only now is it chilly, cold even.

Where I once lived, in upstate New York, the world is already stone dead. The trees have shed their burden of leaves so quickly that they almost seemed to vomit them; there is little to no pomposity in the verdant life there, and no lingering, proud display of colors as there is here in Southern Virginia.

But Fall is not really a season, any more than midnight is really an hour; they are both born of the tangible ‘in-between’, the absence of season between true seasons, and a passing moment between one day and another.

Both of them, however, are mine, times and seasons during which I am fully alive, rare and fleeting moments and hours during which my soul awakens from its usual torpor. A time of quickening, and a season of renewal.

My life is a twilight existence, ever lingering between joy and permanent despair.

Permanent joy requires a bit of naiveté, I think. It requires not knowing enough to be occasionally sad, and lacking enough knowledge to understand the darkness surrounding oneself. There is a reason that the happiest among us are small children, babies, or those ‘handicapped’ with Down syndrome or the like.

But permanent despair requires selfishness most damnable. It requires being just stupid enough to believe that one is alone in his/her struggles, that one is unique in one’s misery. Which is ridiculous, as the Ecclesiast pointed out thousands of years ago: ‘What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.’1

Meaningless, a chasing after the wind

Some believe that the biblical ‘Ecclesiast’ was King Solomon the Wise. Maybe that’s true and maybe it isn’t, but I like to think that it is. When Solomon (maybe) penned those words, I picture him sitting on the roof of his glorious palace, watching the dead leaves blow by in the wind. I bet he was tempted to rise from his seat, too, to chase the leaves. For there is some sense of satisfaction in that; one might actually catch a leaf. But the wind that blows it, well…

I suspect that King Solomon loved autumn and midnight as much as I do. He just seemed the type.

For despite all the dreariness of a world dying, of a day passed that has yet to dawn, there is hope. Hope – and even the certainty thereof – that spring will come anew. Hope that the sun will rise again. Hope that life will blossom and bloom, and continue its cycle of death and rebirth.

In that hope, I can simply relax. I can, with deliberate perversity, enjoy the process of constructively dying.

Some days I wonder about my eternal salvation. Did I not hope enough, or repent enough to be saved? Did I do or say or believe something wrong before – or during – baptism? Was – or am I – simply evil, and ultimately unredeemable?

When I ask myself those questions, I open my curtains and peer out at the beautiful, breathtaking autumn world, a world dying by degrees before my very eyes.

Just as surely as those dead trees will live again, so also will I… and not because I deserve it or could ever have done anything right, but because God loves me. Even if I fumbled and misunderstood as I accepted His redemption, He is perfect and His promises are unbreakable; He is as perfect as I am flawed, as strong as I am weak. 

The trees are dying. The day that was yesterday has evaporated altogether, nothing more now than a memory. But despite their apparent doom, the trees are as imperishable as the elliptical wanderings of the shining sun. They may once die a very real death, but they will live again, more gloriously than before.

And so will I.  

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