I drove home from work Friday, once again surprised that autumn had arrived with a vengeance overnight. The other seasons creep in slowly, distracting you with promises of holidays or flowers or vacation until you hardly notice the change, but not autumn. No, autumn barges in like a wino, vomiting leaves and driving out every last vestige of warmth in your bones. Its shocking arrival leaves me struggling to breathe, like jumping into too cold water. And yet I relish scarves and vests and boots and hot tea all day long and snuggly blankets with good books and the promise of curling up by the fire soon to come.
Despite how much I love my job, now that I'm working more than full time, I seem to have entered a season of divinely appointed loneliness. The shock of finding myself in such a season leaves me as breathless as autumn's arrival, yet it is not without some measure of joy. There is a stigma of shame generally attached to the word loneliness, the stigma of "I'm such a loser no one wants to be my friend." And I suppose sometimes it is healthy to ask if my loneliness is a function of my own bad choices, but I've found an immense freedom in this particular season of divinely appointed loneliness. Don't misunderstand me, though, I'm not completely hermiting away. I am maintaining friendships and community, but they are somehow absent of the deep satisfaction that I've had in the past.
Maybe loneliness isn't the right word. Perhaps restlessness would be better?
In the harvest season, though, I can't seem to get the image of wine out of my head. I have felt that the image of the winepress may be fitting for this particular season. The winepress in scripture is used as a symbol of judgement, and in many ways I have felt the judgment of God treading over the meager fruits of my labors, pressing sin out of my heart, and setting me aside to rest in a fine oaken barrel. And as I have been led to pray in so many different directions, I wonder perhaps if he is about to crack open that barrel and begin pouring me out in new and different ways. The future is the subject of a thousand vague prayers, though because I feel right now, in each moment, pressed to bursting. I am wrestling with a palpable anxiety so intricately woven into the fabric of my sinful nature, that laying my anxiety at the foot of the cross feels like dying.
I drove home tonight after sharing dinner and a glass of wine with friends. It was dark, but not late, and I marveled again at the abrupt change of season. It is still amazing to me that after decades of living, struggles like this one are still so surprising. I'm trying to let go of the notion that a life without struggle is is achievable or even desirable and rejoice in the struggle.