The Joy of Leaves

posted in: Devotionals, Life 4
Photo: Autumn Mott Rodehaver via Unsplash

The last leaves are falling from the maple tree in the front yard this afternoon. Holdouts that refused to give up their grasp of the branch until now. I imagine that they were waiting until they could decide their style of final decent. There are so many to choose from; the flutter from side to side, the twirl, the slow float, the rare “swoop like a bird,” the roll, the “tumble with the wind”. It must be a tough decision, since a leaf really only gets one shot at it.

It is quite a spectacle, all this movement of bright colors in the sky, but I tend to project my thoughts past the festive quality of it to the opportunity for melancholy it signals. I didn’t want the trees to lose their green, let alone be bare. I don’t want another season of cold. But again, it comes.

I suspect that if the leaves had emotions, they might not be as conflicted as I am to watch them fall. In fact, I wonder if they would feel joy. It certainly looks like they are expressing that with their ever-fanciful approaches to falling. They are fully surrendered to a truth that I struggle to embrace; that seasons and cycles are God’s divine plan. Everything has a time and a season—that I cannot control—and that is good and right and beautiful. The Father will never leave me, will provide what is needed in all seasons. He will even facilitate my growth (if I am willing) in one area or another in every season.

Parker Palmer wrote that we in the West have largely lost our connection with nature’s cycles. We have the illusion of control in our environments and have refined it to the highest level in history. “We do not believe that we “grow” our lives—we believe that we “make” them. Just listen to how we use the word in everyday speech: we make time, make friends, make meaning, make money, make love, make a living.” (Let Your Life Speak, 97)

Photo: Nang Vang via Unsplash

Denying the cycles of life is tiring. I want to be able to embrace the joy of those last leaves falling, twirling, and swooping as the seasons change. In fact, I think their brilliant colors are evidence of the intention of joy in the change. God could have made them all turn gray or black.

Lord, help us to recognize and embrace the joy and provision available to us in the seasons of our lives, instead of always looking for a better season. Help us to peacefully look for how you might move in us and through us right now, in this season.


J. Scott McElroy is the author of Finding Divine Inspiration and The Creative Church Handbook: Releasing the Power of the Arts in Your Congregation, and director of The New Renaissance Arts Movement. He blogs at Reach him at Scott (at)

4 Responses

  1. Jen Bubp
    | Reply

    Beautiful and thoughtful!

  2. Linda Sylvester
    | Reply

    Love this!

  3. Linda Sylvester
    | Reply

    Beautiful and thought provoking!

  4. Anita L Rodriguez-Fitch
    | Reply

    Beautiful comments Scott! I can definitely relate to denying the cycles of life: being a native southern Californian who never really experienced four seasons until we moved to Kentucky, I can add that not only is it tiring – it induced (in me anyway) complacency. I continued painting while still in CA but was uncertain where my work might find an audience or why I even made it in the first place. Oh well, I thought, my church doesn’t need my talents just my money. Then we were forced to move to KY and I sense that more than the seasons are changing.

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