Chaparral Press

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Frank On November - 6 - 2013

Why-Do-Leaves-Shed-in-Fall

Growing up in Indiana, I knew exactly what our youth group would be doing during the short days of fall. Our rural Lutheran church considered it a mission project. Sure, we raked a lawn covered in leaves into colorful mountains under great red maples. But, despite the back-breaking effort expended to create those piles, we also did not hesitate to throw each other into them, scattering broken leaves back onto the lawn we had just uncovered.

Eventually, once the grey sky began to darken, the air became brisk and our hands sore, we decided that it was time to break the cycle of piling and scattering and start stuffing the piles into large metal trash cans. Plus, once we were finished, we knew that large cups of hot chocolate were patiently waiting to reward our efforts.

During one of these fall excursions, I remember asking our youth leader why we bothered to rake leaves in the first place. After all, in just a few weeks, the first big snow would fall and cover the world in an endless, powdery white blanket. Soon, the fallen leaves would be perfectly hidden like dirty clothes stuffed beneath the bed in a teenagers room. So, why not let God take care of cleaning up and skip right to the hot chocolate?

That’s when wisdom trumped youthful expediency. Our youth leader, patiently informed me that if we waited until spring to rake the leaves, we would be left with soggy piles of decomposing muck. And, jumping into those piles would be as much fun as roasting s’mores in an Easy Bake Oven. And, hot chocolate is out of season in the spring.

If we simply waited, snow would surely cover the leaf strewn lawns. But the mess would still be there, lying beneath the surface, rotting. So in the end, I learned quite a bit from the sacred practice of raking leaves.

First, whitewashing our lives, creating an endless blanket devoid of imperfections for the world to see isn’t worth the effort. Because, while we are busy painting and blending, beneath the surface, the core of our being, our spirit, is rotting. (Matthew 23:27-28)

Second, it is better to deal with falling leaves as they are falling. Nothing good happens when we let leaves pile up for too long.

Third, leaves fall. I know that must sound incredibly profound. But it is nevertheless true. Falling leaves, like disappointments and difficulties, trials and tragedies, are part of our lives while we are dwelling beneath the red maples of this planet.

Finally, raking leaves and tending to our spiritual landscape, is better done with friends. Teens know that the best way to clean up a leaf-covered lawn is by teaming up. Back in Indiana, we never dropped each kid off at a different home and promised to pick him or her up in a couple of hours. We wanted to work, and play, together. And who knows, maybe there is some hot chocolate to be shared along the way.

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