United Thank Offering

Finding the Beauty Found in Change

September 1, 2021
United Thank Offering

By Heather L. Melton, staff officer for the United Thank Offering

It is almost autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, and it is my most favorite season of all. I start looking for clues to the arrival of both autumn and spring because I love them so much. A week or so ago the first sign of fall arrived—unfortunately, it’s my least favorite sign: when my alarm went off, it was dark outside still. I took a moment to really notice it, and while I didn’t love the darkness, I gave thanks for what it will bring: cooler weather, crisp air, crunchy leaves, colorful trees, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and sweater weather. 

Since that morning, the air has been crisp in the morning like fall, hot in the afternoon like summer, and stormy at night like spring. Each day the weather feels like a reminder that change is hard. Change often feels like two steps forward and one back as it unsettles us, even when it is welcome change. Change often makes us want to cling to things that we think we can control, so we have something giving us stability amid all that is unfolding around us. Perhaps that’s why my list of things that I love in autumn also includes holidays with deeply rooted traditions. Just this past week, one of my daughters was outlining all the things we do on Thanksgiving, because I made roast chicken for dinner, and while it reminded her of the holiday, it reminded me of the touchstones of tradition for our family and how the days do seem to swirl toward and around those touchstones. The past year was especially hard because the pandemic destabilized many of the things that make us feel in control, from the ability to buy cleaning supplies, to the ability to gather for holidays safely. So as autumn begins to unfold with all of its changeable beauty, how do we begin again?

There is an old Irish proverb that says: Change is the breath of life. While not all change is comfortable nor feels like a blessing, change is a sign that life is happening. When I was a parish priest, I often worked with congregations fearful of change, fearful of the losses they thought change represented. That fear often blinded them to seeing what was possible. I think the seasons are such an important reminder to not let fear keep us from change. Change brings about opportunities for growth, for trying new things, building new traditions, and learning something about ourselves. This is the beauty found in change, opportunity, freedom from fear and new life. This past year we’ve all experienced a lot of this change. And now as many want to return to normal, I also hope we’ll take a moment and give thanks for what we learned and maybe adjust to accommodate those who aren’t ready to go back to the way things were (or can’t because they are immunocompromised or too young to be vaccinated), or simply let go of those things that weren’t serving us well to build up the new thing that God is doing in the midst of us. Another way to look at that old Irish proverb is to say: Change is a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is always calling us to grow and change; we can either be fearful, or we can embrace change with gratitude. Gratitude for what was and gratitude for what will be. 

As we find ourselves in this in-between time, as summer melts into fall, I hope that you will join me in noticing all the good things that change brings. Give thanks for things that are coming to an end and look with hope, not fear, upon those things which are coming. It is my hope that if we can do this with the changes in the seasons, that unfold in mostly predictable ways, we can begin to embrace the less-predictable changes that come in our life with the same grace, hope and joy we feel when the first tree lights up with the colors of autumn. As we all move forward into an autumn marked with uncertainty, may we do it knowing that the Holy Spirit has emboldened us for this moment and will not abandon us, especially when we choose to find the beauty in change.

The Rev. Cn.
Heather Melton

Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering

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