The leaves on the Maple Tree outside our bedroom window are turning red. Other trees across our area are also changing colors. This is not a rare or disturbing phenomenon. The trees are not dying. What is happening is the predictable effect of photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and sugar. The word means “put together with light.” Chlorophyll gives plants their green color and helps make photosynthesis happen. As summer ends and autumn arrives, days become shorter and there is not enough light for photosynthesis. So, during autumn and winter, the trees stop producing food. They rest and live off the food they stored during the summer. The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves and other colors are visible.
Soon, the leaves will fall to the ground and add nutrients to the soil that will benefit the tree when spring and a new era of growth arrives. This annual process of change is necessary in order for the tree to thrive.
Human life also involves change. Sometimes, as with a pandemic, change is thrust upon us. But we do not have to regard ourselves as “victims” of change. Unlike trees, which do not have the privilege of deciding how to manage change, humans have choices. We have options! The greatest options involve intangibles such as attitude, inspiration, perspective, and spirit. After all, the inner life of a child of God is different from that of a tree. The kind of light we “put together” with the elements of our lives is a different kind of light, one we can seek in any season. Enlightenment is the human equivalent of photosynthesis.
We regard our Creator as changeless. Creation, on the other hand, is made alive by change. Of all God’s creatures, humans have the most options for managing change in purposeful ways that impact the unfolding story of creation. When we are able to work with changes that impact our lives, they are more likely to become springboards that propel us into the next stage of growth.
Learning to live creatively with change allows us not just to survive but to thrive. Businesses, institutions, communities, and individuals are reporting discoveries and new ways of operating while trying to cope with the challenges of COVID-19. Some of those changes will be permanent and will be beneficial for years to come.
So, in the light God gives, let us relish opportunities to explore changes that are thrust upon us and to purposefully initiate changes that will promote life and growth. In learning from change we expand our lives and become more fully human. By exercising our faith in God to guide and protect us through transitions, “we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life” will find rest and refreshment in God’s eternal changelessness.
The Very Rev'd Ron Pogue
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church