Fall and Winter in the Life of the Spirit

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – Jesus (John 10:10 NRSV)I love Fall. It is a beautiful transition time from summer to winter. From a time of abundance to a time of rest, where we have now gathered our fruitful summer harvests and prepare to let the ground lay fallow. And Isn’t this good imagery for our own spiritual lives? I hope that in your life you have experienced times of abundance. Now I don’t mean abundance in terms of material wealth, abundance does not mean surplus. Instead, consider the abundant life that Jesus describes when he said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). What do you think he meant by that? I also hope that you have experienced times of transition and times of letting the ground lay fallow. It is important to our spiritual lives to understand suffering and loss, as much as it is to understand gift and grace. George Fox used to talk about letting Christ till up the fallow ground of our souls. We need times of summer and winter, planting, growing, harvesting and waiting. We need times of letting things die. Sometimes we need to toss some scraps in the compost, sometimes we need a heap of compost to get things going. This season reminds me that that even in barrenness God is present to us.Richard Rohr’s new book “Falling Upward” juxtaposes this kind of seasonal process when he says: “To fall is often to fail; it’s only after the failing and falling that we rise up to a new degree of understanding and communion. “The way up is the way down” and vice versa.”I wonder how many of us are satisfied with living lives not-really-abundantly, maybe they are simply about performance and have lost the inner-fire, maybe they are now just mediocre. Attrition can set in unannounced. We say that we hunger for God but deep down we are not really quite hungry enough to enter into this full cycle of the seasons of spiritual life. As we enter fall and winter, what are you ready to lay down?

An early church father, we know as St. Iraneaus, wrote in the 2nd century that “The Glory of God is a human being who is fully alive.” And recently I heard someone (mis)quote this in a really useful way, saying that “God finds pleasure in human beings who are fully alive.” How many of us long for that kind of freedom, grace and humility? I love the thought of actually bringing God pleasure with our lives. Will you enter into this time of transition with a renewed sense of investment and deep hunger for the abundant life? Will you join with me as we work out what it means to be a community of people fully alive, as colorful as the leaves on the trees, falling upward to God’s pleasure and grace that surrounds us?