I wrote briefly the other day about autumn coming around the corner. Even now, I have the windows open at nearly 9pm and a beautifully cool breeze is blowing through. Not so long from now, the green leaves will begin to change colors and fall upon the green grass in a rainbow of orange, yellow, and red. The mornings will be cooler and eventually we will see the first dustings of frost will begin to appear on the grass and on the leaves. It is part of the annual cycle of rebirth, growth, shadow, and death, only to begin again the following year. As Autumn approaches, there is a bit of grieving of the loss of the summer – the outdoors, the later evenings, and the warm sun. There is a losing of something and a looking ahead to the shorter days, the snow and cold. But you cannot have the one without the other. I was captured today by Nouwen’s devotional which begins “Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering…” This is not a pessimistic statement for me as much as one acknowledging that there will always be loss and pain that will come in the midst of love and joy in any relationship. Nouwen lists the child leaving for college, the family member or friend moving away, or the finality of death that comes. He closes the devotion with the following words that have stuck with me throughout the day (a part of which one of my fellow staff members in our meeting this morning commented that they perfectly capture the resurrection hope we have…)
Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.
Love stronger than fear
Life stronger than death
Hope stronger than despair
Those are words that will stay with me for a long time. Even as the seasons change, as life throws challenges, as loss comes…I am reminded of the words from 1 John 4:18 that perfect love casts out fear…of Jesus’ words many times over – “Do not be afraid”…of Romans 5 that says, “that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us..”