Fall, funk, failure, and faithfulness

I wish I liked fall more.  After all, there are plenty of reasons to love it!  The weather is cool and crisp – neither too hot nor too cold, the trees turn my favorite colors, and it’s the perfect time of year for hot tea and homemade soup.

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My tea collection might be a little huge. But it wakes me up when the sun isn't there.

But while the much of my hemisphere is celebrating fireplaces and cozy scarves and pumpkin spice everything, fall is rough for me.  I’m solar-powered.  If the sun’s not up, I’m not up.  As days shorten it’s a daily struggle to embrace consciousness and drag myself out of bed.  It usually takes at least one large cup of tea for my brain to kick in.  After work there’s hardly any light left, prompting me to often abandon ambitions to tackle chores and instead crawl back under the covers early with a book.

Thankfully, by mid-November or December when temperatures plummet and snow falls I’ve usually settled into a comfortable routine and it’s less difficult.  But this transition is always a challenge.

As the first rays of sunlight hit my windows later and later each morning, I observe myself becoming lethargic, unmotivated, withdrawn, grouchy, and easily annoyed.  Optimism and enthusiasm usually come pretty naturally to me and I often still have a few decent hours every day, but they’re less frequent and I sure don’t feel like “positive, encouraging, silly” Alissa.  Even when I somehow manage to do a good job hiding my fall funk, I certainly feel the change in my heart from serving to selfish, from encouraging to aggravating.

I once wrote a short blog post about how much I love the winter solstice.  While it’s the shortest day of the year, it means I’ve made it to the darkest point and things are only going to get brighter from here on out.  How appropriate it is that we celebrate the birth of Christ during the darkest week of the year (at least in this hemisphere), that we rejoice God came down to us to save us from the darkness of our life without Him.

Right now, winter solstice is still a way off.  (Eight weeks, but who’s counting?  Me, apparently…)  The days ahead will continue to get shorter.  I can either go as Oscar the Grouch for Halloween every year and claim the month of October is just me getting in character, or I can fix my eyes on Jesus – my own solstice and promise of light.

For while my depression has gone up as the leaves fall down and my body and mind struggle to stay joyful and energized and thankful, the flip side is that my spirit is more vibrant than it has been in a long time.  When I manage to finally get up in the mornings I curl up with my Bible and devotions.  There, as my exhausted body waits for the sky to turn from grey to pink, God reveals himself to my tender spirit. It’s absolutely the best part of my day. For real.

It shouldn’t surprise me that I’m more vulnerable and receptive to the gifts of grace in this season.  After all, Christ told Paul that His “grace is sufficient, and [His] power made perfect in weakness”.  Donald Miller recognized this and wrote “grace only sticks to our imperfections”.  Each fall my weakness and imperfect inadequacy are definitely more apparent.

In a time where it’s a challenge to be productive and instead I struggle with guilt, feeling like a failure over the countless ways I’m not reflecting and serving God very well, I’m reminded that’s okay because He doesn’t want my offerings of deeds or good works anyway!  (Psalm 50:9-12)  He wants to shower me with grace and teach me to trust in Him.  My fall funk is, in fact, the perfect opportunity to rediscover the depths of His faithfulness.  Sarah Young writes in “Jesus Calling”:

I have chosen you less for your strengths than for your weaknesses, which amplify your need for me.

John Piper writes:

What is God looking for in the world?  Assistants?  No.  The gospel is not a “help wanted” ad.  Neither is the call to Christian service…  Isn’t there something we can give to God that won’t belittle him to the status of beneficiary?  Yes.  Our anxieties…  Christianity is fundamentally convalescence.  Patients do not serve their physicians.  They trust them for good prescriptions.  The Sermon on the Mount is our Doctor’s medical advice, not our Employer’s job description…  God is the workman in this affair.  And what he gets is the glory of being the benefactor of grace, not the beneficiary of service.

My favorite season will still be spring as days grow longer and warmer and I witness the ground awaken with new, green life.  It’s easy to praise God in the “good” times like spring.  But the good times aren’t when God is glorified the most in my life.  It’s the difficult times when I seek Him earnestly and learn to trust Him more and experience the greatest growth.  God is not inconvenienced by me bringing my burdens to Him, my repeated prayers for forgiveness when I fail.  Rather, He delights in the opportunity to love me and I give Him glory when I fling myself daily and hourly upon His immeasurable grace:

Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory. –Psalm 50:15 

Tomorrow my alarm will once again go off before the sun is up.  Once again I will stumble around in a half conscious stupor, barely making it out the door in time for work.  I will gratefully wrap cold fingers around a hot mug of tea as I sift blearily through emails at work.  Tomorrow night I will again be exhausted but probably manage to get some cleaning done before calling it a night.  I hope I can be gracious throughout, not accidentally bruising the spirits of the people I care about.

And through it all I will praise God for being bigger than my inadequacy and failures.  Bigger than my exhaustion and short temper.  I will praise Him for teaching me dependence.  I will boast with gladness of my weakness as another opportunity to witness the power of Christ working in me.

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