The weather in Milwaukee has been spectacular the past week, with sunny days and temperatures in the 70’s. Yesterday I had the chance to get out and enjoy the beauty of Autumn. I’m always thrilled to see the colors of the leaves made even more brilliant by the sun and silhouetted against a clear and deep blue sky.
There’s a paradox in all this. What makes us appreciate the beauty of these days is that it won’t last. The splendor these days is passing as Winter lurks around the corner.
You have to wonder: would we appreciate the beauty of an Autumn day if every day were sunny and every tree painted in these brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds? I don’t think so.
There’s a song by Warren Barfield, a contemporary Christian artist, which captures this truth. It’s called “Beautiful Broken World” and it begins with this verse:
Wonderfully arrayed on a bright autumn day
The leaves set the trees ablaze
I’m sitting here beneath
This decaying canopy
Sunlight sifting through the shade
It won’t be long
Until they’re gone away
That’s the price we pay
Then the chorus goes like this:
In this beautiful broken world
We laugh and then we cry
There’s a wonderful pain and joy
In death and in life
What makes life and its beauties so precious and something to be valued is the fact that it isn’t forever. As the bridge of the song goes:
Would the day still be as sweet
If it had no end
And the answer is “no.” It wouldn’t. Life in this “beautiful broken world” is precious and sweet because it doesn’t last forever.
As the trees let go of their leaves, so each one of us, in different ways and at different times, must let go of one thing or person after another until finally we let go of life itself.
We let go in order to be given more than we could hope for or imagine. In heaven we won’t have to let go and yet it won’t be boring. There, we believe, everything is more beautiful that the most beautiful Autumn day. Though it will be eternal, Heaven won’t be boring because it will be eternal not as a succession of one day after another, each one just like the last; rather the eternity of heaven will be an eternal “now,” a moment that lasts forever. We can’t imagine that because we time-bound creatures cannot conceive of life outside of time. The closest we can come is to savor the present moment—the “bright autumn day” with “the trees ablaze”—and remember… this is an hors d’oeuvre of the Heaven Banquet.