Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. -James 1:17 NIV
We’re in that beautiful time of year when the leaves turn a riot of reds, oranges, and yellows. Imagine, if instead of an annual show, the leaves turned color only every ten or twenty years, how in awe we would be.
G.K. Chesterton was a writer who became a believer in Jesus late in life. Using “autumn” as both a metaphor for late in the year and late in life, he wrote this poem “Gold Leaves.”
Lo! I am come to autumn,
When all the leaves are gold;
Grey hairs and golden leaves cry out
The year and I are old.
In youth I sought the prince of men,
Captain in cosmic wars,
Our Titan, even the weeds would show
Defiant, to the stars.
But now a great thing in the street
Seems any human nod,
Where shift in strange democracy
The million masks of God.
In youth I sought the golden flower
Hidden in wood or wold,
But I am come to autumn,
When all the leaves are gold.
In his youth, Chesterton sought to make his mark, be a leader, strong and defiant, even when in error (when the weeds were showing). Plus, when young he sought “the golden flower.” He was looking for “that one thing” he thought would make him happy or feel fulfilled. “The flower” implies “there is only one.”
Have you ever been tempted to go down that endless rabbit hole? “I’ll be happy when (I graduate/I can move out on my own/I get married/I can buy a nice house/I have kids/I have a good job/I have lots of money/I can buy a vacation home/I can retire/I have grandchildren/[fill in the blank]”
As Chesterton grew older and put his trust in God, however, he began to see God and divine gifts everywhere. Any friendly nod shows the love of God. The “strange democracy” and “million masks of God” tell us that God created all people to be His priceless image-bearers, and each carried unique gifts and insights.
Finally, instead of fruitlessly searching for “the golden flower,” he realized “all the leaves are gold.” God’s goodness and gifts are all around us, if we only open our eyes to see it and our hearts to be grateful and receive.
As Pastor Corey Widmer in Richmond, Virginia put it this way, “it’s not the happy people who are grateful. It’s the grateful people who are happy.”
How thankful are you today for all the “golden leaves” surrounding you?
(For a deeper analysis of this poem, read this.)