Slowing Down to Celebrate Death

A week ago, I had the most beautiful tree on our street. Now, I have a massive amount of yellow leaves blanketing my front yard. 

As strange as it sounds, this is a season of transitioning to death, dormancy, and darkness. And we can celebrate it. 

Death. It's not how you normally think of harvest season. But for something new to grow, it often means the death of something old. Today was actually our first hard frost, where I live. As that frost killed back many annual flowers, it paved the way for beauty.

My wife is a budding landscape designer who specializes in native plants. I've been learning along side her. Did you know there are many seeds that need to go through the freeze-thaw cycle of fall and winter in order to be able to sprout and grow anew in the spring? Did you know that frost also kills back many pests and diseases that would otherwise grow out of control and destroy the beauty of plants around us? Did you know the freeze-thaw cycle helps to break down and improve the soil structure? Did you know that many fruit trees need a good freeze cycle to produce good buds in the spring, and fruit in the summer?

As the sun sinks lower, the days shorten, and frost hits, it also brings about the death of a gardening season. That can be sad (though I won't miss the never ending task of mowing our lawn!), but also gives a natural rhythm and space for the gardener to slow down. To stop. To rest. 

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." - Jesus, as recorded in John 12:24

We are re-entering into the death-and-resurrection cycle. But if you are like me, you are resisting it. The older I get, the more I come to dislike the cold. Maybe someday I'll be a snow bird...

I find that I also resist the death of things. The slowing down. Hibernation rather than hyper-production. Do you realize that for the thousands of years before the invention of the electric light bulb and the 40-hour work week, people actually worked less in the fall and winter, and slept more? We weren't made to pull 16-18 hour days of wakefulness 365 days a year.

But right now, the FOMO and the pressure to perform and produce keeps us from behaving naturally. Slowing down is hard to allow ourselves to do. The idea of celebrating it is... almost impossible. 

What if we took some time to engage with and celebrate death. Take a moment to slow down, and let yourself ponder. Maybe even ask God:

  • What pests or parasites are sucking my life away, that I could let die?
  • How might I give myself permission to engage the soil of my soul to be restructured and renewed?
  • How might I slow down this week and give myself space to rest?
  • What has happened this last year? How might I intentionally engage my family in celebrating and grieving it?

We like to say that "the intentional man restores the world around him." Take a minute to intentionally embrace the natural seasonal rhythm of slowing down, rather than caving to what could otherwise be the chaos of the holidays. Give yourself the space to do so this week. 

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Cody Buriff, Director of Resource Initiatives