I Like Autumn: The Golden Years with Calm and Contentment

Nowadays, churches seem to focus most of their energy and resources to cater to the needs of the younger generation. The constant search is for new leaders who display youthful enthusiasm, energy and organizational skills. Meanwhile, the older Christians are expected to fade gracefully into the background. Presumably, they should feel contented now that they are free to graze peacefully at green pastures beside still waters.

The reality is that many of the older Christians feel lost and displaced, especially when they find it hard to adjust to church services where the steady and reverential flow of liturgical worship is displaced by overpowering loud and repetitive music, and where the reflective homily is supplanted by motivational talks – all in the quest for relevance to contemporary culture.

I would like to assure my fellow Christians who are journeying into their sunset years that their new season of life need not be filled with regrets and disappointment because they are now relegated to the fringe of church activities. On the contrary, they are now free from the arduous cares of life – desperate parenting, exhausting work pressures and church responsibilities. They can look forward to having time to enjoy the refreshing presence of God, and to cultivate richer relationships with their peers.

May I share what I first read forty years ago when I was deeply touched by the poignancy of Lin Yutang’s words as he reflects on the calm and contentment of the Autumn years of life:

Autumn is Golden

There comes a time in our lives when the innocence of spring is a memory and the exuberance of summer a song whose echoes faintly remain in the air, when, as we look out on life, the problem is not how to grow but how to live truly, not how to strive and labour but how to enjoy the precious moments we have, not how to squander our energy but how to conserve it in preparation for the coming winter. A sense of having arrived somewhere, of having settled and found out what we want. A sense of having achieved something also, precious little compared with its past exuberance, but still something, like an autumn forest shorn of its summer glory but retaining such of it as will endure.

I like spring, but it is too young. I like summer, but it is too proud. So I like best of all autumn, because its leaves are a little yellow, its tone mellower, its colours richer, and it is tinged a little with sorrow and a premonition of death. Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor of the power of summer, but of the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age. It knows the limitations and its richness of experience emerges a symphony of colours, richer than all, its green speaking of life and strength, its orange speaking of golden content and its purple of resignation and death. And the moon shines over it, and its brow seems white with reflections, but when the setting sun touches it with an evening glow, it can still laugh cheerily.

In my young days,
I had tasted only gladness,
But loved to mount the top floor,
But loved to mount the top floor,
To write a song pretending sadness.

And now I’ve tasted
Sorrow’s flavours, bitter and sour,
And I can’t find a word,
And I can’t find a word,
But merely say, “What a golden autumn hour!”

Source: Lin Yutang, My Country and My People. Cultured Lotus, 2001. A reprint of John Day Co., 1935, pp. 347-348.