A Psalm for Piles of Leaves
Fall is a good time to reflect on two things, where we make our current life and where we plan to be for eternity. Psalm 16 begins by speaking of a choice: "I say to the Lord, 'you are my [God],'" and "Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows." It's fall and I have a choice. I can prepare my yard for winter; raking leaves, tilling the dead garden into the soil, repairing windows and gutters, folding away the hammock which went the whole lazy summer unused. Each change of the seasons brings tasks that can ground our humility. We root ourselves in simple thankfulness. It wearisome to rake and rake, and to hear the wind wail at night, knowing it is replenishing the yard with leaves from the neighbor's trees. But, my soul is grateful to be living in this time and place. I say to the one who designed my neighbor's maple trees to be so prodigious, "you are my God."
What would it be like to make the other choice, that is to choose another god? It would be to consider this God-created world as our enemy. It would be to complain about the mundane challenges God has designed into our human experience. It would be to resent our illnesses and disabilities, yet paradoxically, to complain that God didn't give us enough time on earth. It would be for the pot to complain to the potter, "why have you made me this way?" When our neighbor, borrows our rake and returns it weeks later rusty and with broken tines, do we curse this one who like ourselves is made in God's image? When we call him a fool, are we not choosing for another god?
What if we decide to make as much money as we can so that we can hire a yard service to douse our manicured lawn with chemicals in the spring and summer, and then vacuum our leaves in the fall? Or worse yet, what if we go south as soon as the autumn comes? Are we not at all concerned about what our God might have in mind for us in this place? Now, I'm meddling. But you know, I am hesitant to install a dishwasher for fear that it will take away the time I spend each evening at the sink in meditation.
What does Psalm 16 mean when it says, "...you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage." Perhaps it means a different thing for each person. Not everyone is blessed with fall leaves. Some live with daily pain. Others are stuck with a hostile work environment. Yet when we become grateful enough to see God in the boundary lines of our lives, then we see the choice, and know what it means to call the one who designed this day and season, our Lord and God. This is Psalm 16's answer to the question, "Where do we chose to live our current life?"
Then Palm 16 moves to the next question by saying, “Therefore my heart is glad... because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead.” Simply put, God loves us too much to let the end of our days on earth be the end of our lives. He promises us something beyond the autumn of our days and the winter sleep of death. The Gospel in both the Old and New Testaments is one continuous story of God expressing His eternal love for frail, struggling, individual human beings.