Burning Leaves

BURNING_LEAVESWhen my family lived in the Midwest, every fall season began with leaves ablaze in reds, oranges and yellows. And every fall season ended with leaves ablaze in burning heaps on the streets. For a few weeks in late autumn, the neighborhood would be enveloped in a dense, smoky haze that would make your eyes sting and your lungs burn.

It was an old town that did things old school. There were no neighborhood covenants, no fire restrictions, no air quality standards. Just burn, baby, burn.

So burning was a popular means of lawn waste disposal on the west end. When I wanted to get rid of a tree stump in my backyard, my seasoned neighbor advised that I drill some holes in the surface, pour some accelerant in the holes, and set the stump on fire. So I did. And over a period of several days, the entire stump was consumed in a slow burn right down to the roots.

Later, when I wanted to dispose of some old, twisted ewe bushes that I uprooted from my front yard, I just threw them in a pile, and set them ablaze. In no time, those burning bushes were entirely consumed.

In one of my darker moments, I thought about the fall and all those burning leaves.  I thought it might be nice if I could just rake up my past into a big pile, set it on fire, and let it burn to ashes. Out of a desire to start fresh, I dreamed a little dream about disposing of my personal history in a controlled burn until the last bit of smoky haze was carried away on the wind.

But my spiritual vision must have been clouded by smoke from another place because my dreamy thoughts amounted to a pile of rubbish.

God doesn’t incinerate our personal histories. He redeems them. He works in and through our pain, our losses, our struggles, our failures. Out of the old, ugly mess He brings forth something beautifully new. Through the work of the Spirit, we experience the rhythm of the seasons. Death leads to rebirth and renewal.

What God does consume in the fire of His his holy love is our guilt, our impurities, our imperfections.

I’ve put away my rake and my matches. There’s nothing left to burn.

4 thoughts on “Burning Leaves

  1. I’m not crazy about the smell of smoke. After two summers of fires — the Waldo Canyon Fire and then the Black Forest Fire — I have a difficult time savoring the smell of a neighbor’s BBQ. But I’ll tell you what, Dave, there have been times I would have doused my past with several bottles of lighter fluid, lit a match, and tossed it on the heap — and rejoiced at every flame, flicker, and even the tendrils of smoke.

    But you’re right, Dave. God is not about destruction … he’s about redemption. And he’s about bringing beauty out of everything — even the pasts we turn our backs on.

  2. It would be a sad thing to see your history burned away. Every bit of good (which would go as well), bad, painful and ugly has resulted in the person of character you have evolved into. You couldn’t celebrate the transition as much if you didn’t have the contrast of what came before. Who can really appreciate a sunny day if they’ve never experienced seasons of gloom and rain?

    That’s not to say I don’t totally get your point, Dave! But I’m still glad you put away the matches!

    • Shel, sometimes a reply communicates truth better than the post. This is one of those times. You have zeroed in on such an important thing–so much transformational good comes through the “bad” things or the hard things. You are so right. To remove the bad would be to take away the good that came through it.
      Thank you for contributing such profound thoughts. And thank you for your good encouragement.

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