I finished my yearly Health Quotient assessment by my insurance company this morning. It’s not mandatory to complete it, but it has several perks. One is a reduced deductible for next year, and the other, more important incentive, is an encouragement to change habits, exercise more, and enjoy a healthier diet. This is a great time of year to get ready for next year. Summer’s busyness is past and the rush of Christmas is yet to arrive.
Fall is in the air! The crispness and chill of the morning air rejuvenates my spirit. At this stage of life I sense autumn’s metaphorical approach. I’m not as young as I once was, but the winter of older years is still at bay for now. As the song goes, “I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was!” Autumn is a season that helps me take stock of the year that has already transpired, and ponder my life as a whole. This is the most reflective time of the year for me.
It may not be your most introspective time of year, but I do hope the change of seasons gives you an opportunity for a fresh perspective on your life. Lin Yutang appropriately describes fall in these words, “I like autumn best of all, because its leaves are a little yellow, its tone mellower, its colors richer, and it is tinged a little with sorrow. Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor of the power of summer, but of the satisfaction and kindly wisdom of approaching age. It knows the limitations of life and is content.”
Where are you in your relationships, aspirations, contentment level, and overall happiness in life? Are you feeling as mature as your years? Ann Landers once said, “Maturity is the ability to do a job whether or not you are supervised, to carry money without spending it, and to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.” The autumn years of life reveal our maturity level. They clarify who or what is important to us. Our values are revealed as either treasure or trash.
It should be no great surprise that autumn is the season for church stewardship emphases. The harvest is upon us so we gauge our giving accordingly. Those who have embraced their autumn years know the true power of giving. Just as trees shed their leaves to prepare for spring’s new life, good stewards are reflective and effective as they make wise choices of the beneficiaries of their bounty.
Harvard Professor David C. McClelland writes about progress in individual development. In his book The Search for Power, he describes 4 stages on the path to maturity. Stage one perceives power as coming from others, but is directed toward oneself. Stage two perceives power as residing within oneself, and is used for the needs of the self. Stage three perceives power as residing within oneself, but is used for the sake of others. Stage four perceives power as residing outside the self, flows through the self, and is used for the sake of others.
He says that stage four defines the essence of religion, faith, theology, and Jesus. In his version of what I will call “Autumnal Assessment” he says that the task of every individual who strives for maturity is to remove the last vestiges of stage one from our lives where we feel like victims, by teaching that even in the world of work, power resides within us, and can be used for the sake of others. So long as people do not know or believe this, theology may well beckon then in vain, to stage four, where we recognize that true power comes from without, flows within, and then out again to and for others. In summary, he says, “We must first learn that we are not victims before we learn that we are stewards.”
During this autumn’s opportunity to assess and reassess my prayer is that we move into a fruitful stewardship of our lives, appreciating the passing seasons, and welcoming an opportunity to give back. Like an apple tree whose gifts sustain us with the crispness of each bite, may we offer ourselves as gifts of the Giver to everyone around us.