A leaf changes. . . a tree flames . . . something dies . . . something sleeps, rests, waits . . . . . then spring comes and something new is born.
These are the cycles of life, change and seasons I have experienced around me for most of my life. Autumn this year has been a little different because we are living in a different environment in this alpine valley. In some ways it has been very slow with agreeable temperatures, sunny, mild days well into November. There have been fewer bright red trees like the one above. Mostly the trees seem to be various shades of orange, brown and yellows. Some valleys seem to have more birch or aspen like trees making whole hillsides of bright yellow. It has surprised us how long the leaves have been staying on the trees. While there has been some snow at the higher elevations tonight is the first night snow is falling in Albertville for this winter’s season.
It has been wonderful to experience the seasonal changes in this place from our arrival last January up till now. Changes from snow and cold to thaw and warmth, bloom and color, growth and harvest. Now some death and rest, sleep, store for the rebirth of spring. As we approach the end of our time here I’ve been reflecting on my own changes over the year, asking myself the questions that I see reflected in the season around me. What has changed? What has flamed? What has died? What rests, sleeps, waits?
Just as autumn is still in process here so are these questions. We continue to make sense of all we’ve experienced and learned over the year. I can say that what has died in me is more of my “pride in self” as I’ve returned to the process of being a student, learning humility in the awkwardness of language learning and the frustration of continuous and constant failure. As so often happens in life, we thought we came to learn to speak French but God had much bigger plans than just to learn a language. In typical fashion, the real lessons have been at the deeper levels of our heart’s attitudes and motivations. Learning French has been the tool God is using to whittle away at our pride, self-righteousness and the idols of our hearts. All this is an ongoing process that will not be over until we meet our Lord face to face but we know this year’s situation has again put us in a “pressure cooker” and magnified our deep need for God’s grace, forgiveness and faithful perseverance.
As pride dies, what sleeps, rests, waits? Trust, hope, faithfulness, obedience–these are the characteristics God has been more interested in nurturing in us than how well we construct french sentences, pronounce french words or speak fluently in french. We have a good beginning in french for going onto Burundi, where we imagine we’ll be speaking french much more exclusively. But even better has been the heart-refining process that overrides the whole of our lives to transform us into a truer reflection of Jesus, the perfect human and the Son of God. Though it has often been painful and difficult we find ourselves giving thanks to God for the continual sense of His presence with us, for the mountains around us that continually speak of His goodness, greatness and beauty, for the encouragement He sends through people who care for us.
We wait to see how we will be used in Burundi, who will join us, how we will be further transformed and blessed. We know there will be many differences, such as seasons of wet and dry instead of autumn, winter, spring, summer, living on the equator instead of the northern hemisphere, living in the hills rather than the mountains. We also know more deeply now the constancy and faithfulness of God who doesn’t change, nor sleep, nor slumber but watches over our coming and going. (Ps. 121) We rest in hope and expectancy, sure of wonderful things to come just as we are sure spring will arrive next year.