Today in Alvechurch the autumn day is blustery with skies of stormy gray. With every gust of wind, more leaves fall, shaken loose from trees that are shedding their tawny fall dresses. I walk along the village streets, my feet rustling through a carpet of saffron yellow, russet and chestnut and I inhale the pleasantly pungent scent of autumn detritus. In the tree tops, an ocean of wind roars, sounding like a storm at sea.
Leaves rain down, until recently hanging on, firmly attached to their woody homes, but there seems to come a moment for each leaf, when it falls without effort. Just a tug of the wind and the stem that harnessed it so firmly to the tree, lets go.
In the small orchard at the bottom of our property at home in Canada; I notice a similar moment when the ripening apples, pears and plums are ready for picking. Try to pick the fruit too soon and the stem holds it firmly to the branch.
Nature does not rush her timing and it is not by any effort of the tree that fruit grows or leaves shake loose. The factors that determine the moment of falling leaves or ripening fruit are external for the most part. The environment; wind, sun and rain, all make a difference.
I can’t help but think of the parallel with the habits I sometimes despair of shaking off, and the new ones—the Bible calls them the fruit of the Spirit—that I long to acquire. I ponder the lesson of the trees and know that God alone can, and must, do the work in me.
Some of the environmental factors; spiritual disciplines they are sometimes called; of prayer, solitude, reading God’s Word and living in an atmosphere that welcomes His Spirit; all make the difference. In that environment he, the master gardener shapes my soul.