The leaves have changed once again. I savor every minute of this breathtaking season, taking frequent walks. As we were meandering through the neighborhood recently, my kids asked me why the leaves turn colors. I inadequately stumbled over a crude explanation and decided I’d better procure a more scientific answer for my little pupils. Garnering my most intellectually sound research abilities, I looked it up on YouTube.

What I found blew my mind.

Did you know that the hues we adore in autumn are always present in the leaves? That’s right. Those colors are already there throughout the spring and summer, but the leaves produce such a large amount of chlorophyll that the green masks any other color. As the days shorten, the leaves get less sunlight, so photosynthesis declines and chlorophyll production wanes, allowing the other colors in the leaves to show through. This process, of course, ultimately results in the leaves’ death, but it gives us some gorgeous scenery in the process.

Now, many spiritual parallels could be made from this phenomenon, but the one I’m about to share sobered me.

Think of the lush green of chlorophyll as the life we have in Christ. Just as time in the sunlight allows the plant to produce more chlorophyll, as we spend time with Jesus, the sun/Son, we produce more life-giving qualities as well. Virtues like patience, kindness, and unselfishness mask our sinful nature as we find it easier to resist fleshly temptations. Old sins and attitudes may seem to have disappeared, but, just like those orange and yellow hues, our sinful nature is still very much present within us.

If we neglect to spend time with Jesus, our Light, some of our sinful nature’s true colors start to reappear. The more we lax we become about time in the Word, worship, and prayer, the more our sinful nature presents itself. Old temptations that we thought were conquered start to rear their ugly heads, and we begin a gradual spiritual decline.

But the autumn colors are so beautiful! Absolutely, but only for a season. Sin, too, is pleasurable, but only for a short time (Hebrews 11:25). In the end, it always leads to death (James 1:15).

I realize it might be a bummer to correlate the beauty of autumn leaves with our ever-present sinful nature, but maybe it’s the kindness of God to use that beauty as a loving warning not to depart from the Light of his presence. Those of us who have been Christians for many years can be guilty of going on autopilot. Maybe we know enough Scripture that our hunger for his Word has subsided, or perhaps we’ve gotten casual about our prayer life, church attendance, or other spiritual disciplines. Maybe we’re not struggling with the “big” sins that used to be prevalent in our lives, but fleshly attitudes of pride, jealousy, bitterness, fear, self-righteousness, or laziness can take full advantage of any leverage we give them. Without continually turning to Jesus, our source of life, our sinful nature will ultimately dominate us.

As you take in those gorgeous fall colors, may it be with reverent awe of the importance of continually spending time in the Son.