Fall leaves and barren trees

Henri Nouwen wrote that “joy and sadness are as close to each other as the splendid coloured leaves of a New England fall to the soberness of the barren trees. When you touch the hand of a returning friend, you already know that he will have to leave you again. When you are moved by the quiet vastness of a sun-covered ocean, you miss the friend who cannot see the same. Joy and sadness are born at the same time, both arising from such deep places in your heart that you can’t find words to capture your complex emotions.”

I read these words on Saturday, as I tried to understand how I could feel sorrow at the beginning of something good. It was as if my heart, although full of joy at the newness of change, couldn’t fully experience that joy – because it was already preparing itself for when it would end.

I realized and wondered if joy and sorrow are inexplicably linked. Because isn’t one gain a sign of many losses, too? One beautiful, glorious triumph is truly built of all the falls leading up to it. As I celebrate the newness of this season in my life, of change and moves and unknowns, I also am sorrowful for what I too have lost – a childhood chapter closed, friendships changing, shifting roles. With every gain, there is so much loss. Yet with every loss, there is oh so much gain.

I am a big believer in seasons of life – that most things have a beginning and an end. But secretly? I also loathe their existence. I hate that some friends are meant for a season. And I even hate that some people are meant just for a conversation, that they are meant to impart wisdom for the two hours you sit across from them in a crowded airplane. It’s sad to me that some jobs are meant just for a time, and it breaks my heart that some homes are meant for a childhood.  I am not good at juggling the contrasting things in life.

But I am trying.

I am trying to embrace both the joy and sorrow, and to hold them together as if they are both beautiful and needed.

I am trying to embrace beginnings and endings, as if they both shape me in different but good ways.

I’m trying to see God in the seasons of life – the short ones and the long ones, the dark ones and the bright ones.

I’m making the constant decision that He is the Redeemer and Author of all things,

of hellos and goodbyes,

of beginnings and endings,

and of fall leaves and barren trees.