The first day of fall is known as the autumnal equinox. Equinox (Latin for equal night) is when the day and night are equal lengths and the sun is directly over the equator. I read this happened in the US at exactly 6:49 a.m. ET on Saturday. At first it felt comforting to hear something as large as the season of fall is contained nicely in a box and can be predicted down to the minute. I suppose I prefer that to randomness. But that kind of precision doesn’t mesh well with reality. For starters, it was over 100 degrees on Saturday. No one told the sun in Orange County it was time to back off. It’s still too hot for a soy pumpkin spice latte and I’m stuck in a sundress instead of my favorite leather jacket.
This fall thing bothered me all weekend. (Proof that I may need more of a life) There is no exact moment when seasons of life change. I can’t turn to life and say, “Excuse me, it’s 2:13 pm on Monday and XYZ is supposed to take place.” Life is far more chaotic. Life is complicated. I’ve been thinking a lot about the word complicated the past few months in relation to faith and life. Christianity can feel like a box, like precision and calculation trying to enter (or worse, be shoved down) complicated lives. Some problems feel too big and messy for the truths and wisdom of the Bible. They can come off as cliché, simplistic, out of touch. When your gay friend tells you being out and in a relationship has grown his relationship with God. When the new guy who doesn’t go to church treats you way better than your Bible reading, small group going, regularly tithing ex. (and the two before him) When your friend wants to know if it’s ok to divorce her husband for his porn addiction. It’s then that you want to say to the simple answers- you don’t have all the facts! You don’t understand! It’s not freaking fall. Step outside, it’s hot as hell!
Simple truth in a complicated moment can make you angry. Reducing a big situation to a small one feels wrong- even when you are right. I’ve come to think that this is a key part of why Jesus came. After giving the written law, prophets, and setting up religion, God said, “I’ll send a baby.” In the end, He didn’t just send us a book of wise teaching, a set of religious practices, and a moral code to follow…. He sent a person. As important as that stuff is, it wasn’t enough. Only a person can always offer something new to our lives. Only a person was able to expose the heart behind the wisdom. Only something living and breathing is complicated and fluid enough to enter into our ever-changing lives. Christianity can seem too simple and finite at times. Jesus never does. He’s always surprising us- compassion for the ones who messed up, a harsh word for the ones who did everything right, a life of downward mobility in a world that pressures everyone to get ahead. He continually did the unexpected. He approached situations from left field. And even now, He’s up to date on all the facts, sides, and contributing factors of our problems. In a good way, He’s not one size fits all in His dealings with us. He meets us where we are at.
In Colossians 2, Paul tells the church that religious practices, rules, cultural festivals, strict diets and a long list of other things are never meant to be the point of our faith. He went so far as to call them useless for living correctly. In verse 17 he says, “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” Like in Plato’s Cave, the shadows are only meant to be pictures of the real thing. The real stuff, the whole point, the substance is Christ.
I find myself very grateful for this. I’m so glad I follow a person instead of a religion. Especially in a crazy world of eat at Chic-Fil-A/don’t eat at Chic-Fil-A, vote this way/don’t vote this way, bumper stickers, and soundbites that try to ignorantly tell us it is simple. I hate that stuff. And so I feel good about offering friends a person; a God/Man who is with us in our moments of need and confusion. I recently had dinner with a friend in a bad relationship and I didn’t know what she should do. While searching for the right advice, the thought came that she should just pursue Jesus. I really believe that if she does, He’ll figure it out with her. He’ll lead her in the right way. I can trust her to Him. I believe He has something to say to all our lives if we’ll listen and take time to hear him. His words won’t feel outdated, simplistic, or naïve- even if they’re ancient truths Christians have believed for thousands of years. Because Jesus is not simple. In fact, He’s the most complicated being that has ever walked the earth.
…So, take that fall. (Get it? Really bad Xtian joke on the double meaning of fall. Forgive me, I needed a conclusion and that’s all I had)