This is part of my series on stories. You can read an introduction here.
This time of year brings to mind the poem “Spring and Fall” by Gerard Manley Hopkins. In this poem, the speaker asks a young girl named Margaret why she is crying over the falling leaves, though it seems that she cannot explain herself. He remarks how at her tender, inexperienced age she is so sensitive to the changes around her and grieves minor matters the same as adults grieve great tragedies. He warns that she will see much worse things in her life, and grow cold and hardhearted; she will no longer be moved by things as insignificant as dying leaves. She will, however, continue to grieve, and grow in understanding of the reason. The narrator tells Margaret that though what she weeps over will change, the source of all grief is the same – she weeps over death, knowing one day it will take her as well.
Margaret innately understands that the world around her is broken, even though she cannot verbalize it. Even as a young child, she weeps because she knows that things are not as they were meant to be. This is an awareness we all have. Like Margaret, we have all grieved something in this life – the death of loved ones, the loss of relationships, the decay of nature. We feel outrage at loss and death, as if a great wrong has been done – because it has. We were not created to die, and we long to be free from this violent aberration of the created order.
Hopkins’ intentional use of “fall” instead of “autumn” harkens back to the source of our grief. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in Eden, they fell and brought upon all mankind the curse of death (Romans 5:12). Every one of us is aware of it; even creation around us groans under the weight of this curse (Romans 8:23). The world is wasting away, and we crunch reminders of this fact under our feet each fall.
There’s no hope for Margaret; she’s left in grief and despair. But we have the full story – redemption has come.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
2 Corinthians 4:16
Though the world and our bodies are steadily decaying, Jesus has already conquered death (2 Timothy 1:10). If we turn in faith and repentance to Him, He rescues us from the spiritual death brought on by sin, and one day He will destroy death completely, crushing even physical death. He renews our hearts, and one day He will renew our decaying bodies. Our Savior King even now is redeeming this world, and one day will restore it to what it was meant to be. Until that day, we do not lose heart; we pursue the work our Lord has called us to as we wait. While we watch the leaves fall and die, and grieve with Margaret, we wait in hopeful anticipation of the day when “everything sad will come untrue”1 and all will be made as it was meant to be.
1The Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones