I've been the primary dog walker in our home the past few days. Chloe walks in the morning and just after she eats her supper late in the afternoon. As we "fell back" into Eastern Standard time, we've adjusted, Chloe and I, so that the afternoon walk comes just a bit earlier to allow us to enjoy more daylight. Chloe likes to sleep into the mid-morning hours, so the first walk of the day hasn't changed very much. Chloe also likes to sniff--everything. Maybe she has an incredibly well-developed sense of smell, or maybe she is just curious or, maybe (as I suspect) Chloe stops to sniff so often because she is lazy and wants to walk less and rest more. Whatever the reason, I have found myself becoming strangely patient with her tarrying.
We live in a neighborhood that was developed about thirty years ago. All of the trees are full and tall and bursting with color. Various vibrant colors, side-by-side, just seem to surprise, to astonish, to cause a yearning for more. In truth, the temporary tree colors seem to appeal to more than just the eyes; it feels like they are pulling at my heart.
Colorful trees, beautiful autumn afternoons, changing seasons -- these are nothing new, especially for those of us blessed to live in this part of the country. Something, though, is different. It might just be me; I'm older, certainly and possibly a bit more mature. Or, it might be that this year, with the warmth of the Summer and the spells of rainy weather, and the sunshine of the early fall, has caused some unusually-inviting colors to appear. There may be a dozen better explanations, but here is mine: God is beckoning us to live a better life.
Bear with me as I try to scamper past the politics that seem to dominate life today. (That's difficult for me as I am usually at least hip-deep in those politics.) But let me just put it this way; here in America, and to an astonishing extent around the world, we have not gotten beyond the election of 2016. The level of partisanship, contentiousness, and bitter division seems only to increase. We are engaged, it seems at times, in civil warfare, and those who are not fighting the battles actively are either disregarded or, worse, held in front like human shields. And the awful, terrible, discouraging, devastating news of another mass murder, this time committed in a church by someone with means, motive, and opportunity, ought to shock our systems. Instead, that news flows in and out of our consciousness too, too quickly.
God is beckoning us to live a better life. Perhaps to tarry just a little bit...
... to stop and smell the earth as she absorbs the nutrition of 2017 to bring forth the richness of 2018...
... to pause for a moment and then to stay just a moment longer in awesome wonder at a tree that, too soon, will drop its colors in favor of the bleakness of winter. Or, perhaps...
... to just walk a little bit longer, a little bit later, a little bit more trustingly as winter's darkness settles around us, listening to the One who guides our footsteps.
Maybe we can be restored by the truth that very little is within the grasp of our control; maybe we can be pulled back into orbit and begin, once again, to attend to the things we can control (most of which is inside us).
God is beckoning us to live a better life. Of course, we are called to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. These are the truths of our lives. But John Wesley gave great advice when he counseled, "First, do no harm." To many of us, it seems, right now, that the fabric of life has begun to fray at the seams and the margins, and we might do well to make sure that we are doing no harm before we insist that we know how to do what is right... even before we set about doing good.
God is beckoning us to live a better life.
If that is the reason for these beautiful fall colors and their insistence on our attention, then can we possibly fail to accept that God does not call us to do what is impossible... That God does not beckon us to live a life that is unavailable?
This realization may force us to give up a little bit of our self-assurance, a pretty good part of our indignation, and just about all of our anger. We may have to take another look at the commandments to love God with all that we have, and all that we are, and all that we shall ever be and -- while we're at it -- to love our neighbors (especially those with whom our level of disagreement borders on hatred) as ourselves.
God is beckoning; let us attend.