DIY Prayer Retreat #10: The Days of Autumn

Here’s another one-day prayer/silent retreat outline. Boelle Kirby adapted it from sections of “Befriending Insecurity” by Johnny Sears in Weavings Journal, Nov/Dec/Jan 2016-17, and May I Have This Dance by Joyce Rupp.

You’ll find the introduction to Do It Yourself group prayer retreats here and other outlines under resources.

The Days of Autumn 

On the other side of insecurity lies deeper trust in the goodness of life and the love of God. –Johnny Sears

In this season of autumn, the leaves falling from the trees onto the earth are subtle reminders that we are asked to let go of many things throughout our life… The ease at which the leaves sail through the air as the trees let go of their treasures stands in sharp contrast to our own tight grasp on life. We can see autumn standing in surrender as the winds sweep her trees naked and vulnerable.

We seem to be living in a time rife with opportunities for insecurity and uncertainty, which hearkens to the reality of living that we are all vulnerable—which means anxiety is an unavoidable part of life. Whenever we are called to let go of something safe, secure, and familiar whether it be relationships, beliefs, circumstances, expectations… we may encounter those chilling winds that can sweep our covering leaves away and leave us feeling naked as the trees.

But we cannot grow without change. Much of this growth depends on whether we give ourselves to the process of change or run from it with our fears and insecurities. Sister Simone Campbell of the Sisters of Social Service has suggested that we need to develop a “theology of insecurity” to deal with our obsession with security and control. Perhaps looking again at autumn might give some perspective on aspects of this theology.

Autumn (along with winter) is a part of the necessary transition between summer’s fruitfulness and spring’s new life. No new growth will come unless autumn agrees to let go of what has been. Dead leaves that seem to have no value are transformed by winter snows and rains to rich humus for new growth. The bare branches already bear the potential of new green in the terminal buds. The ground lies fallow, but it is resting and gaining nutrients for the seeds to sprout in the spring. The earth waits in the process of growth for the unknown, unseen beauty yet to come.

Autumn invites us to pause and to reflect on how we live with insecurity, challenges us to develop deeper trust in the unknowns of our eternal God, and believe more fully in the promises of our faith—which can be difficult to fully accept and live. When we befriend insecurity, when we stop gritting our teeth in resistance and trying to impose our will onto life in an attempt to force things to fit our expectations, we can accept the invitation to shed whatever hinders us and we create space for new life to emerge.

AUTUMN PRAYER  LITURGY

God of the seasons, there is a time for dying and a time for rising. We need courage to enter into the transformation process.

God of autumn, the trees are saying goodbye to their green, letting go of what has been. We too, have our moments of surrender, with all their insecurity and risk. Help us to let go when we need to.

God of fallen leaves lying in colored patterns on the ground—our lives have their own patterns. As we see the patterns of our own growth, may we learn from them.

God of misty days and harvest moon nights, there is always the dimension of mystery and wonder in our lives. We always need to recognize your power-filled presence. May we gain strength from this.

God of harvest and ripened grain, many gifts of growth lie within the season of our surrender. May we wait for harvest in faith and hope. Grant us patience when we do not see, and hope in the fallowness.

God of love, you enter into our autumn seasons, into our deepest places of inner dwelling, into the heart of our transformation. You give us glimpses of truth. May we allow our experience of autumn to speak to us of necessary change and growth. Grant us an openness to the continuous process of letting go and moving on that is part of the human condition. We are grateful that you are our faithful companion on this journey.

AMEN

Questions:

  1. Think of what specific areas cause fear, vulnerability, or insecurity in this season of life for you. Instead of resisting insecurity and rejecting anxiety, what would it look like to befriend or make peace with them?
  2. What might God be saying to you about these, and what might you ask from God?

Possible activities:

Draw an autumn tree. Let the tree symbolize you. For each part of the tree reflect and respond on that part of the tree.

  • The roots: who and what has given you nourishment and vitality in your life? Who and what “roots” you in your times of insecurity and change?
  • The trunk: what are your strengths? What events have channeled new life into you?
  • The leaves: what is dying in your life now? What do you feel called to let go of?
  • The bark: who or what protects you, comforts you?
  • The terminal buds on the ends of the branches: what brings you hope? What is your hope?

With either question 1 or 2 above, write a letter addressed to the insecurities or to God, speaking to them or God as if they were in the room with you (or write a conversation). Have them answer back if you want to.

*   *   *
Credits and Resources:
Content for this reflection is adapted from
“Befriending Insecurity” by Johnny Sears, in Weavings, A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life, Volume XXXII Number 1, Nov/Dec/Jan 2016-17
May I Have This Dance by Joyce Rupp. 1999, Ave Maria Press. (Chapter: “October:  The Falling Leaves”)
“Fall Leaves” by Sharon. Used with permission.
“Fall Fairground” by Liz. Used with permission.
“Horse Chestnut terminal bud in winter by Shaun C. Williams. Used with permission.
“Leaf” by Carl Mueller. Used with permission.
Winter Tree Line Drawing Creative Commons.
“Leaves” by Rob Howard. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com

About Esther Hizsa

Esther is a spiritual director and writer. She lives in Burnaby with her husband, Fred, and they have two grown children and two grandchildren.
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One Response to DIY Prayer Retreat #10: The Days of Autumn

  1. Pingback: Autumn Leaves | An Everyday Pilgrim

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