As I write it is still very dry and hot and some of the trees have yellow leaves, or have lost their leaves because there is a shortage of water. Nearly all of us are enchanted by the vivid reds and browns that emerge from the leaves. I know several people who travel to forests to see the Autumn colours. For many years I wondered how the trees knew when to shed their leaves. I always assumed it was something to do with a fall in nighttime temperature. The trees sensed it was getting colder.
Apparently, it is ‘Photoperiodism’, that is the tree responds to the length of daylight. I always marvel at the complexity of nature and how so often what appears to be simple is a complex mechanism perfectly suited to its task. As we watch the leaves changing colours, we are witnessing the tree shutting down for winter. The leaves are slowly dying as the water and nutrients are being withdrawn. The beauty I notice in the leaves happens more subtly in spring with fresh green colours, and more vibrantly in autumn with yellows, oranges and reds. At both these times, a rapid change is occurring before our eyes, and the eyes notice that change. What we witness is the ability of the tree to sense the amount of daylight and respond appropriately.
What is less apparent is what happens between spring and autumn, as the tree is in constant leaf. I am reminded that while things remain pretty much unchanged we take little notice. When change happens rapidly we are often surprised or shocked by it. Yet if we remember the tree, it measures the daylight each day and acts accordingly. The problem is when things do not change much, we often forget to do the important things and take things for granted. For me, I forget to say thank you or how much I value someone precious. Then when things change rapidly it is too late to do the things you should have done. Often there is no chance to make it up. We are often guilty of failing to appreciate what we have before we lose it. When I read in the Bible that people become comfortable, often their need for God diminishes and He becomes irrelevant. Unsurprisingly they quickly drift into trouble and expect God to rescue them. The teaching of the Bible is that a constant relationship with God should shape our everyday existence.
The cycle of boom to bust is not a good model and to expect God to be the one who gets you out trouble, free of charge, is not realistic. When things go wrong there is always pain and hurt which are never easily overcome or forgotten.
If we return to the trees and their measurement of daylight. We quickly realise that the light of the Sun is pretty much constant. What changes is the proximity and angle of the earth to the Sun and that determines how much light the tree receives and how it should respond. If we make the parallel comparison, God is constant. What changes is how close and to what extent we are turned towards God. God can only work with what we allow Him to do in our life.
Rev. Martin Wood. The Rectory, Church Lane, Cheriton Bishop EX6 6HY 01647 24119 (Tuesday to Sunday) firstname.lastname@example.org