As autumn sweeps in with the crackle and flurry of falling leaves, the sleepy serenade of summer fades out, and things begin to change. People talk about “Spring Fever,” the early-year malady characterized by intense activity or idle apathy depending on the afflicted patient, but we seldom mention its autumnal counterpart. This “Fall Fever” epidemic seems to spread particularly quickly on college campuses, as new and returning students alike test the waters of our new classes, learn to ride the currents of our social lives, and reflect on the directions our lives might take. After a time of splashing, we emerge with a palette of outlooks as varied as the colors of the trees around us.
For some, college life sees our experiences and aspirations burst into vivid colors, as we spread our wings for the first time, try new things, and discover more about ourselves. Others, in search of a new path to our goals, or unsure of our futures and desires, might feel more akin to the leaves tossed along in the chill autumnal wind. Still others of us may find ourselves struggling to fit in, as we watch our friends and classmates exchange the colors of their lives, then look down at our own uniform green and think “I must not be ready for this,” or wonder “Why am I the only one who isn’t changing?”
Whoever you might be this autumn, you have a place in this and every season. Just as the winds remind us that change is natural in the human experience, and the shifting spectrum of trees shows that this change touches us all in unique ways and at different times, so Jesus himself reminds us that he is with us to foster and guide our directions. “Behold,” he says, “I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19). While some of us might hear the phrase “God has a plan” so often that we come to take it for granted, the fact remains that God governs the changes and chances of our lives, however enigmatic and unsteady those lives might sometimes seem. In fact, Jesus reminds us that he is not only the God of growth and transition, but the God of constancy, “who does not change like shifting shadows"(James 1:17). However restless or lethargic we might be, Jesus keeps pace with us and provides a firm place to rest when we falter.
Whether we embrace the new colors it brings, feel disoriented as it carries us up and down the sky, or find ourselves waiting for its arrival, change plays a pivotal part in our time as college students. Consequently, I’m glad we have seasonal outbreaks like Fall Fever. Rather like this article, the crackle and bluster of the weather might not offer practical solutions to our problems, but it does provide a larger-picture reflection of our personal patterns in the world around us. Fall is a reminder that wherever we belong on the autumnal stage, we are never alone. Christ is the vine, we are the branches, and while some branches grow at different speeds and in different ways, all alike bring forth fruit— each in our own time and season.