In Trust Center board member Kathryn Glover, an experienced higher education administrator and governance consultant, provided this devotional thought at a recent board meeting.
When I walk in our yard now I see fallen leaves, I hear them crunch underfoot and the air smells different. For those of us living in the northern hemisphere — and specifically in climates that experience four distinct seasons — autumn is a time of change with decreasing light, cooler temperatures, and falling leaves. Autumn is associated with “dying.” Gardeners know that some plants will die and add nutrients to the soil but will not be reborn, while others will eventually go dormant — either taking on an appearance of death or fully dying back — coming back to new life in the spring, often stronger, more lush and more fruitful.
Dormancy is not death but rest. Plants in dormancy continue to take nutrients from the soil and gardeners are taught to use compost — which is itself decaying matter — as a means of enriching the soil.
The gardener understands that the annuals that provide color and beauty in a spring and summer garden, will not survive the cold of winter. The gardener also understands that perennials flourish when nurtured, nourished, and pruned. The gardener witnesses the dormancy and dying back in their garden knowing that new life will emerge in the spring.
Just as perennials die and are reborn so do we experience and witness death and rebirth in our own lives and in the world around us. Sometimes we are called to invite others to allow and accept death in order for something new to come about. Sometimes that death overwhelms us and clouds our ability to envision new life.
Yet as Christians we know that there is not new life without death. We rely on God to strengthen us, to be our rock, to guide us in living our lives in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.
This foundational Christian belief was shared with millions around the world as they recently watched and listened to the funeral and burial services for Queen Elizabeth II. Her death has surfaced questions and conversations about the opportunities and need for change, for allowing certain traditions to die along with her. As an Anglican, I appreciate the beauty of our liturgy, especially funerals which are set as liturgies of resurrection, and couldn’t resist watching parts of both liturgies for the Queen. I did not watch it live, but instead downloaded the orders of service to first see what music had been chosen for the services.
I found the words from one of the hymns — All my hope on God is founded — to be a helpful reminder of the one source of support and strength during times of uncertainty and challenge.
And here I am paraphrasing in less archaic language
God renews my trust
God guides me through change and chance
God’s great goodness endures for ever
From God new worlds arise
Daily God, the Almighty giver, provides us with generous gifts
The image of the garden and the language from the hymn bring to mind certain questions to consider.
How are we called to be gardeners in our own lives, the lives of others and the lives of the organizations we lead and support?
What are we being called to nurture, nourish, and prune?
Where are we finding nourishment?
Where do we see God’s great goodness?
What needs to go dormant or die back in order for new life to emerge?
Where do we already see new life and new worlds arising?