Autumn is a great time to let go and say ‘goodbye’

We have entered my favorite the season of year: Autumn. While the days become notably shorter, we enjoy the cooler weather with less humidity. Autumn has another name, “Fall” because the leaves on the trees fall during this time of the year.

The mid-section of our country is experiencing the changing colors of the leaves. I attended a workshop outside Asheville, N.C., a few years ago. The leaves had already turned and were falling off the trees like a rain storm – beautiful brown, yellow and maroon leaves all over the ground.

Autumn is also an important notion for our spiritual lives. Just as the trees must let go of their leaves to have new growth in the spring, so we have to let go of things, people and situations to experience new life.

Jesus told us, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:24-25) Jesus is not asking us to detest ourselves but to let go of the people, places and things that prevent us from growing.

We have to let go of many things in life. We start at birth. We leave the comfort of our mother’s womb and are thrown into an unknown world. Just when we get accustomed to our family surroundings, we are sent off to school. We grow from being dependent as we develop interdependent relationships. All these steps involve leaving our comfort zones and experiences new life.

Some letting goes are bigger than others. Death, divorce, serious loss of health, and loss of a job are some big challenges we might face. What do we do when we feel the pain from those losses? Many people try to drown their sorrows with drugs, alcohol, sex, excessive work or activity, gambling, etc. These activities are counter productive. They make the problem worse.

Like Jesus, we must go through the cross to new life. We have to deal with our loss. Sometimes even God seems far removed from our lives. Psalm 22 expresses that feeling well: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish? My God, I call by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I have no relief.” (Ps. 22:2-3) This is the Psalm that Jesus prayed on the cross.

Anthony de Mello in his meditation entitled “Redemption” reminds us that we cannot be alive if we cling to what has happened in the past. He says, “Yesterdays are a memory, a creation of the mind. They are not real.” He tells us, “One way of living in the past is holding on to grievances.”

He suggests that we get in touch with the people who have hurt us and offer them an amnesty – let them go.

He goes on to tell us that if we are going to give up living in the past, we must drop all our regrets. What we regard as our losses – our failings, mistakes, impediments, lack of opportunities in life, our so-called bad experiences – must be seen as blessings. “For in the dance of life all things cooperate to do us good.”

Even holding on to our good experiences can be damaging to our growth. It’s important to say goodbye to persons, places, happenings, and things that we treasure from the past. Again, de Mello writes, “We will never meet again because when we return, they will have changed, we will have changed, all will be different.”

Autumn is a great time to say, “goodbye.”