One of the fall traditions that I miss is burning leaves. Yes I know it’s not good environmental stewardship and it is dangerous when the environment is dry. But the smell of burning leaves always smelled to me like fall. Every year when I smelled burning leaves I knew that fall was underway.
When leaves burn they go away – they are destroyed Like the burnt sacrifices of the Old Testament of the Bible. When things were burnt and destroyed in being offered to God.
Sometimes I feel like parts of my life are that way. Things are burnt, destroyed, consumed by struggle. And this isn’t always bad. Some things need clearing out of my life. Some things need removed from my soul. Some things need to be destroyed because they, like the leaves of fall, are dead.
Today we tend to be more sensitive to the consequences of burning leaves (and also the not uncommon practice in my youth of burning trash). Leaves are picked up and composted to be reused for new growth. Trash that gets burned is sometimes used to create electricity.
God is the ultimate recycler of human experience. What’s dead in us and what’s refuse in our lives gets reused. Our worst experiences are used by God to bring new life in the future. Our broken relationships become the basis for changing and growing how we relate (better) to others – spouses, children, friends, coworkers. Our mistakes become the compost of the next decisions that are made more wisely, more compassionately, more faithfully.
So as you rake your leaves out to the curb in the next few weeks (or at least see someone else do it), rake your old, dead stuff out to the curb of your soul. Let God take them and make them into something new in the next season of your life. I am working on it myself and look forward to what will grow out of my moldy and dying leaves.