A young couple has bought the house next door and they’ve spent the end of the summer taking it apart. I feel as if there should be a banner flying somewhere over our street: everything must go! Curtain rods and carpets, sliding doors, mirrors and the bathtub, all the kitchen cabinets and the sink and walls and plaster and flooring all ripped out. A dumpster sits in the street outside and it is full of broken bits and plaster and a wooden banister sticking out at an angle like a strange, squint mast.
It’s been a noisy time here.
I understand what they are doing. It’s an old house and feels outdated. They are a young couple and want a fresh start and a creative project, something they can build together. They will make the house fresh and clean and fill it with their own beautiful things, their own precious choices. This is a hopeful, forward-facing act and I get it. We’re looking forward to a house move soon ourselves, and all the freshness and renewal that it will bring.
But the change next door is difficult because we know how much the previous family loved the house and, right now, we can only see the mess and not yet the imagined newness ahead.
In the letting go
These are messy October thoughts. There is mess in letting go. We see it around us at this time of year in the spent and ragged leaves, the dark, wet mornings, and the tired-out garden. Outside my window, the tomato canes are yellow and stooped, and the last of the beans dried and twisting, rattling in their husks. And there’s mud. Shoes and boots and pant legs and school bags and so much washing. We cut across the park on a dark afternoon, and the river is high after the rain, the grey surface littered with tangled debris.
New will come again. Of course, it will. The garden will be beautiful, light and lush, and I know things need to fall away for growth to rise. Though I might want to jump ahead to fruitfulness, I need – we need to get through the mess first. Jesus tried to prepare his disciples for that. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).
Heap the table high!
And in the midst of this messy, falling-away season, we come to Thanksgiving with perfect timing. Heap the table high! Celebrate the richness of the seasons we have passed through and the promises of rest and new growth ahead. My first child was baptised at Thanksgiving 15 years ago. We brought her to the church where the whole family gathered and there, beside the harvest display of corn, squash and maple leaves, we blessed her and thanked God for the birthing work behind me and the new work now started among us in this new life. And then we celebrated with turkey dinner and pumpkin pie.
The cycles of the year are blessings. May they each in turn teach us, remind us, and recentre us on our work of prayer and praise as people who walk in faith.
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