Fall helps us recognize that life is still moving forward, pandemic or not, and we must be willing to enjoy the times of our life just as we encounter the seasons within life.
It stopped me in my tracks.
I walked out the back door of our church fellowship hall to put some items in our storage shed when the sight before me caused me to stand still. I looked intently at it and then called for others to come take a look. It was an incredible sunset over the strawberry fields behind our church. The deep reds and orange streaks accentuated with the thin lines of clouds was breathtaking. So we did what we all naturally to do in moments like these: we pulled out our iPhones and took pictures.
It did, however, make me think a bit more about the magnificent scene and the fact I am sure there were probably just as many sunsets of “oohs and ahhhs” in the nights before but, for some reason, I missed them. I’ll bet you did, too.
Since the pandemic, we went from seemingly sitting still to running 90 to nothing to catch up the lost ground of months. But there is one thing I like about the fall season: it helps us to slow down a bit and enjoy the majestic moments more. Maybe it is because we are not running from the coolness in our cars to the AC in our homes or businesses that we tend to walk a bit slower and look around more. I know that for the thousands within the community who have been working feverishly (in the good way) to get the businesses, schools and life back up and running, we can develop a chaotic cadence of treadmill travel. It is going fast but, in the end, going nowhere.
We often use October as a preparation month for the mad dash of Thanksgiving and Christmas for the gatherings, the presents, the projects and the traveling. The treadmill gets going faster and faster until we get to the new year and say, “I make a resolution to not be so busy this year!” Here is a thought. Why not make October the preparation for the peace in the coming seasons rather than going to pieces during them?
The past months of masks, social distancing, Zoom meetings ad nauseum, e-learning, stores and restaurants reopening and toilet paper flying off the shelves have taught us we can be still, we can talk more, we can plan more and we can do those “someday” projects today. We can stop and smell the roses.
That is what Mr. Fred Wolfe taught me when I was stationed in the Army in Alabama. Arienne and I were at Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama one Sunday morning. After the service, we were all moving toward the doors to head to our cars. That day, we parked on the top level and needed to go through the children’s area to get there. The traffic flow of people moved well until we seemed to hit a bottleneck. It was Mr. Wolfe. He still walked with a purpose despite being in his 80s, but on this morning he walked slowly and stopped at the corner to smell the flowers on display. He turned to us and said, “It has taken me over 80 years to learn to do that. Maybe it won’t take you so long to do the same.”
I must admit, it has been since 1990 that the lesson of “stop and smell the roses” was modeled in front of me. The question is, what am I modeling to those around me today? What is the lesson I am teaching to my family, my friends, and my congregation? Is it to run fast, or will it be to “stop and see the sunsets?” For me, it is hard because I wake up with my AAA batteries fully charged and I’m go, go, gone. Yet I (and maybe you, too) must learn that the energy God gives us is not to hurry through life, but to hold tightly onto it. It’s to sit on the porch with your aging parents and solve the problems of the world. It’s to take the walk with a spouse and share again the dreams of the future. It’s to sit in the floor and roll the Matchbox cars back and forth with the kids. It’s to fall into the easy chair and let the dog that has waited so patiently for you to come home hop into your lap — their cuddling space.
Let me leave you with a twist on an old saying. “Don’t just do something, stand there.” When we learn to be content with the silence of our day, we become better students of the teacher of time.
As I conclude, I look once again at the picture of the sunset and smile. God has majestic colors for us in the sky that He ultimately paints across the horizon of our hearts. What will your sunset look like?
Dr. Daniel Middlebrooks is the Senior Chaplain of First Call Church and the CEO/President of Chaplaincy Care, Inc.