The Autumn of life

A nice, fitting track: Lucas King’s ‘Last Train To Nowhere’.

Life.

It feels strange to talk about it with a capital ‘L’. As if the difference between the capital and non-capital letter could capture the slightly differing meaning each word held.

‘Life’. ‘life’. It sounds better with the latter – albeit, a little irritating for the OCD. But as the focus should rightly be on Autumn as opposed to life – and as someone that’s only been through a little of life – it feels right to not capitalize it.

Autumn.

A season which I can’t recall if I’ve actually seen.

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

But it certainly feels like the season I’m living in.

Now is the time where people type short (or medium, or long!) paragraphs of thankfulness. About their undergraduate years, about how thankful they are to their family, friends, so on and so forth. And soon, this season too will pass.

Autumn.

A time when the leaves turn into beautiful shades of orange and amber. Where the gentle crinkle can be heard as one walks through the woods, and they see death everywhere around them. The dead and dying leaves, I mean.

Quiet beauty… mixed with melancholy.

There was probably a time of spring a few years back. Leading up to and including one’s entry into university: A time of dreams, a time of hope, a time of excitement. As the joke goes, “How do you tell who the freshies are? They still have hope in their eyes.”

Hope for an exciting university life: To get a CAP 5.0, to find a partner, to study what they want to study at last. To travel overseas on exchange, to learn and grow as a person, perhaps even to serve others.

For the guys, after two years of a veritable sausagefest, here finally was the chance to have the dream university life they’ve perhaps been told about. To meet, befriend, and perhaps slowly end up together with a nice, cute, sweet, attractive or hot girl as their partner. And beyond that, perhaps to find friends for the longer haul in life.

For the girls, perhaps it just seemed like JC 2.0. More freedom, guys that were older than them, and hopefully more mature, too. Good looking, humorous, caring and steadfast guys who they might enjoy talking with, and possibly grow to like, over time.

And so goes the possibilities-fueled excitement of spring.

Summer.

Summer comes after spring’s early bloom has been given time to flourish. When students are older, hopefully wiser, and slightly more mature in their outlooks. When they are mindful of the future, but unbowed before it. When they look after the juniors under their charge, taking care to help them as best as they can while managing their own increased responsibilities. There is perhaps a little worry towards what the future may bring, but they continue to live in the present and do their best to enjoy their youth.

And then, autumn comes.

Autumn.

For me, it feels strangely wistful. Or perhaps wishful? More likely a combination of both…the latter, leading to the former.

The leaves were once bright and green, teeming with life. The temperature was once comfortably – and then uncomfortably – warm. The air once tasted promising.

But as one looks back down the road they’ve walked, they see..many things.

Things that they wish they had not seen.

Things that they wish they had seen.

Things that might’ve been, but never came to be.

Things that came to be, and one wishes they never did.

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Broken and vanished dreams – mere shadows of a past that never existed. Regrets – over what was, and what wasn’t, done. Musings and ruminations that continue to circle and rumble, long after the storm had passed.

It was bittersweet.

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“Life is bitter enough as it is, so coffee at least should be sweet.”

To be sure, it was sweet at times.

Flowers that bloomed amidst adversity, unexpectedly. Instances where the light of the divine shone down and cleared the clouds of doubt and darkness away. Tangible moments of help and healing; glimpses of eternity.

All of which undoubtedly gave life to the soul and strength to the spirit.

And so, it was bittersweet.

But as much could be written about the sweetness, so much could be written about the bitterness as well.

In the end, perhaps it is all but a chasing after the wind. Perhaps Brother Lawrence was indeed right when he wrote:

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Indeed, it has been my experience that he got this right:

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And so, perhaps the lessons – painful as they were – were better learnt now than later. Perhaps indeed, they were learnt in preparation for later…

What lies before…?

To call the road ahead uncertain is charitable – and optimistic – at best. God has a miraculous manner of closing doors and dashing dreams. And that has definitely brought me no end of sorrow and grief at times – such is an honest telling of my Christian journey thus far.

But equally truthful is the following: Sometimes, when one door is closed, a window opens.

Lament for a Son Dream

What is one to do, sometimes, with the past?

They take it all, and leave it at the Cross.

To sing ‘I surrender all’ is easy; to sing ‘I’ve surrendered all’ is hard.

The first is quite easily sung as a hopeful prayer. The second is less easily sung as that same honest prayer, save God’s peaceful assurance.

But still, one tries. And, I think, God meets us there – where we sincerely are.

Winter.

Autumn comes, and soon after, the winter of life. A time of cold, biting winds; a time of darkness, and death.

Death, in its many shapes and forms. Death – a silent stillness which claims many a thing. And death, which undoubtedly brings with it its companion, grief.

But grief is the last gift we have to give to those we love.

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And even in the cold stillness of winter, there is beauty, and there is God.

Epilogue

My musings is this season of autumn have led me to some conclusions. To look inwards and find inertia in some aspects. To wonder, wrestle, and submit. To confess, and marvel. And to draw close, and refocus.

But perhaps, the most important conclusion is that God’s the God of all seasons.

And so, sometimes, when we look back at how far we’ve come – or rather, how far God’s brought us – we feel betrayed by our expectations and hopes. We wanted to go further, or do more, or strive harder.

Perhaps that’s not wrong. But perhaps too, there is something to be said for taking a step back and asking God in our gentle cries if this right where He wants us to be.

Perhaps it does indeed take a thousand sleepless nights – or wet murmurs –  to know that God is real.

That God is near.

And that God cares.

And that’s alright.

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