Autumn is my favorite time of year. Hands down. I absolutely love the back to school bustle, the change in the air and the leaves (although I’ve heard that doesn’t happen in Florida), and the unconscious countdown to the fast approaching holidays. Autumn is a fresh start for me. Growing up I loved the start of the new school year. My husband recently quipped about the irony of that considering my homeschooled background. I promptly assured him that each fall I too was the eager recipient of new pencils and shoes and, being the oldest, brand new textbooks with that crisp “new book” smell. And my most favorite autumn purchase of all was my brand new planner.
I loved (and still do) the blank pages and the unspoken hope and adventure the school year, carefully choreographed in my new planner, could bring. This would be the year I’d change it all! This would be the year I’d finish my schoolwork early. And in my teens, this would be the year I’d get healthy and earn my PE credits and eat right and lose weight and makeover and then flaunt the fabulousness of my reinvented self. And then I’d do silly things; things like the three different occasions in junior high that I spiral permed my naturally curly hair. Don’t ask me why. I was stupid. And frizzy. So frizzy. (I’ll share a picture sometime. For now those memories are buried somewhere in my old bedroom in California, safe from scrutiny and the head-hanging shame they’re sure to bring.)
And so, while I’ve grown immensely since then, and stopped doing such silly things, I still love a fresh start. (And new leather boots instead of pink glitter jellies, but I digress). I love blank pages and clean slates and forgotten transgressions. And, like autumn, I think that’s part of what makes grace so awesome. Grace is a fresh start. Grace says “you’ve screwed up in the past, but none of that matters and I won’t remember any of it once you turn this page because, I love you.” Grace has the power to make it all better and clean and new.
John 8 tells the story of a woman caught in adultery. Grace for her, like us, was a matter of life or death. The religious leaders wanted to stone her to death because of her sin. But Jesus took a different approach to the situation.
They (the religious leaders, the woman’s accusers) kept demanding an answer (from Jesus to condemn the woman to death) so he stood up and again said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (John 8:7, NLT)
And they couldn’t do it. They all sulked away and left Jesus there in the street with the woman. Then grace happened. Jesus didn’t condemn her and instead the story concludes with Jesus saying
…Neither do I (condemn you.) Go and sin no more. (John 8:10-11, NLT)
She was the recipient of perfect unmerited grace. It saved her life. And, like the adulterous woman, in my broken position I so desperately need that grace too. I needed it when I was eight. And I needed it with frizzy hair in junior high. And I needed it as a self-assured college student. And I need it now as I figure out this whole “being an adult” thing. I need grace from God for my sinful messiness. And I need it from friends when I’m running twenty minutes late. I need grace from my husband when I over cook the salmon. And I need grace from me when I don’t live up to the ridiculous standard of perfection I aspire to.
That’s why I love autumn, it reminds me of grace. It reminds me to slow down and let go and enjoy the shedding of the past so I have room to embrace the future. It reminds me to simplify and make margins in life so I have room for error, and room for grace. As we enjoy the fall festivities in the coming days and weeks, I encourage you to be mindful of grace. Be mindful of creating margins so there is room for grace. Simplify your life, home, and schedule for the sake of what matters most. The holidays will be here before we know it. As we express gratitude and give generously later this year, I hope that it will be a natural outpouring of remembering grace this autumn, and always.