A season of death

Marissa Black  |  Contributing Writer

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”

Life seems to naturally spin in cycles. We tend to follow themes in life where everything we do and learn follows a certain motif, whether we like it or not. We live in patterns that flow into seasons—seasons like the four we have every year. We like to compare times of trial or joy to being like seasons. These seasons are consistent, but also temporary. Seasons of busyness and solitude, confusion and clarity. Seasons of birth and life and death. So it feels appropriate that fall, a season naturally characterized by decay and change, is my season of death right now.

“A time to be born, and a time to die”

Fall is known for death. It is death to our summer leisure and laid back schedules. It is characterized by change and transition, as we depart from home and shed our old habits along with the leaves. There is a physical tree-aching, ground-hardening death to creation that comes along with fall. And sometimes, that death extends past leaves and flowers and enters our own homes.

We are living in a time when people are fleeing armies of death, driven from their own homes in an effort to survive. We are living in a time when the terminally ill are gaining ground in assisted suicide, being legally allowed to take their own lives. Forget the black robes–death is wearing a bulletproof vest and scrubs. Death is no longer a shocking front page story but must wait its turn in line to join the queue with hundreds of other tragedies.

Death has become commonplace, reduced to flowers and clichés and trite attempts to comfort survivors. It has been stripped of its power and gravitas, compared to a nap. By softening death, we lose our reverence for it. We lose our gratitude because we don’t get what it is we’re being saved from. We aren’t being spared from a hazy, ethereal sleep, but from damnation and separation. We need to understand that death is powerful. How much more so is life?

Lately I’ve been experiencing the effects of human death and have been surrounded by many others experiencing this unnerving season. I’ve witnessed the deaths of semester expectations and romantic hopes. Once-solid relationships have withered away. Life plans have suddenly switched with a simple rejection email. Family members are taken away unexpectedly and dynamics are suddenly thrown out of balance. So why do we continue to plan and to say “my will be done” when our wills are so obviously fragile? Why do we rely on our own resolve when it can crumble with the ring of a phone?

Death is a season some are given time to expect while others are not. Some are granted a heads up. They know the season will be slipping in soon—they can smell the crispness in the air, see the clues in the smoke. They know the storm is coming because all of creation warns them so. But others are oblivious. Not naïve, but simply unexpectant. They are comfortable with their situation when suddenly the rains come, the wind surges and things come crashing down. The landscape has suddenly shifted, and while not everything is destroyed, it’s all very different. And now they must learn to live in the devastation of the storm. The immediate damage is pretty bad—broken glass, splintered frames and torn up chunks of earth litter what was once a peaceful refuge. Home is in shambles, and now we don’t know where to go.

To dust we will return.

“A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted”

And yet, fall is meant to be a season of harvesting. We are being plucked out of our homes and our comfort zones and from what we know to be normal. Taken off the vine, we are thrown into a basket together, all a little wary and confused—out of our element at the start of a new season. We are being gathered from our respective homes and brought to another, better one. We are all going through a death of some kind, just look at the fields.

It is natural for things to be planted, to grow and be harvested. Our harvester comes in with a gentle and firm hand, taking us from the vine. He is our reaper, but He is anything but grimm. He doesn’t storm in with a vengeful scythe, eager to cut us off from those we’ve been growing with. He doesn’t muse over our threads of life with scissors poised to end our existence with a sneer and a snip. Rather, he places us in His basket, holds us in his arms, and takes us home to a place where we receive home-cooked meals of bread and wine. It’s a place where death has been conquered and there’s no reason to fear because we’re too busy laughing together.

So how do we handle things when they go the complete opposite of what we thought? When plans and people and dreams die and we’re reeling from the storm, what is our refuge? Because home isn’t just here and now on earth. When everything comes crashing down and our place of comfort is gone, we’ve got to take a step back from it all. We’ve got to know that home is not dependent on location, tradition or circumstance. Home is wherever Christ is. Home is both temporary and eternal, and we will always have one waiting for us.

No more pain. No more tears. No more suffering. No more death. Through death we are taken to a place where it is stripped of its power. We are taken from an imperfect earth to an ultimate home—not an ethereal, hazy, complacent home, but to one where death is an afterthought and we are ushered in from our wanderings. So come sit at the table and enjoy the harvest. Welcome home.

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