On Autumn, Beauty, Grace, and a Dash of Keats

We had to wait for Fall a little longer than usual here in Kentucky.  Autumn made a late entrance, but now it’s here and the fiery Fall colors were here for a time. The trees were full of sunburst leaves and rained them down like papers thrown out of a building.


photo: © gabe lawson

This season has me thinking about the miracle of beauty coming from ashes. This is the season where the trees lose their coats and are left barren.  Yet in a short time they have life spring anew, and the leaves grow and bloom and tell a whole new story.  Perhaps it’s my studying of Nehemiah this season as well, but I’ve been thinking about how something amazing, holy even, can come from a barren, ruinous state.

In Isaiah chapter 30 the Lord speaks to the Israelites about how they are seeking the protection of Egypt rather than resting in the protection of the Lord. They got caught up in what they could see.  They got swept up by the tangible riches of Egypt.  They forgot what their God had already delivered them from.

Their reliance on the “worthless and empty” (Isa 30.7) help of Egypt had consequences. It left the Israelites in ruins.

Often times, we too trust more in what everyone else does than what God does and has done for us, don’t we?

The Israelites. turned their backs on the God who rescued them from captivity in order to go back to that same captor. We do this so much too, don’t we?  We continue to go back to the chains.  But we don’t have to.  

Even still, God tells them and tells us, “The Lord waits to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (Isa 30.18).

This God we serve is a God full of grace.  Let’s leave those chains worthless and empty. 

If we wait for him, he will make blooms spring from barren branches and beauty come from ashes (Isa 61:3.)

I love this poem from John Keats,

After dark vapors have oppress’d our plains    

For a long dreary season, comes a day    

Born of the gentle South, and clears away

From the sick heavens all unseemly stains.

The anxious month, relieved of its pains,    

Takes as a long-lost right the feel of May;    

The eyelids with the passing coolness play

Like rose leaves with the drip of Summer rains.

The calmest thoughts came round us; as of leaves    

Budding—fruit ripening in stillness—Autumn suns

Smiling at eve upon the quiet sheaves—

Sweet Sappho’s cheek—a smiling infant’s breath—    

The gradual sand that through an hour-glass runs—

A woodland rivulet—a Poet’s death.