Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reflection on Seasons

I have been thinking a lot about seasons lately. As much as I may complain about the sweltering heat of a Virginia summer (or spring, as it happens), and the frigid chill of an Ohio winter, there is something refreshing about the knowledge that soon, things will change. I can be thankful that I will not have to endure 95 degree days at 85% humidity all year long. I will not have to don wool socks, sweaters, a wool coat, hat, scarf and mittens just to take the dog out all year long. These experiences are fleeting; they are seasonal.

On the other hand, seasons are also cyclic. While in the midst of a muggy Virginia heat-wave, I may comfort myself with the thought that it will not last forever, but I need to be at least marginally aware that at some point in the next year, I will have to experience another peak of summer. The beauty in this is that God gives me just enough time to recover from the worst parts of each season before I go through it all again. Maybe, in that time, I’ve totally forgotten how wretched it is to have to chip your way through the ice layers on your car just to get in to warm it up, or how blowing snow feels like little needles and frozen nose hair is the weirdest feeling ever; or maybe, maybe I’m more prepared for it the next time around. Get an automatic starter installed. Buy a ski mask. Stay inside.

The idea of seasons applies to our spiritual lives as well.  In Psalm 1, the psalmist writes, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers…” (1:1-3, NASB). There’s a lot here to appreciate, but my favorite line in this description of a godly man is that he “yields fruit in [his] season” (v. 3). Just like in the dead of winter the trees are bare, so there will be a season in my spiritual life of something like barrenness. But I need not fret; it’s just a season. Eventually, the winter gives way to spring, and I’ll notice sprouts of new spiritual life.  

King Solomon was a little more specific in his description of seasons, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecc. 3:1-8, NIV). For everything there is a season, and coming to appreciate the seasonal movement in my life has brought such comfort and rest.

My husband’s return from his last deployment in February was wonderful, but it marked the beginning of a seasonally complicated journey. Between February and July, we would live in 3 different places, crossing two seasonal shifts. We started in Idaho in the winter, and met the spring in Ohio. We moved to Virginia on the cusp of summer, and then settled in Germany during what should be summer, but feels more like spring on most days. This presented a challenge. We had 6 suitcases between us, and three seasons in six months for which to pack. It was like a math problem.  Besides the physical challenge of moving between seasons, I felt the spiritual challenge that seems to accompany the transience of the military life. I like to feel settled, to have a home base, and so my tendency is to say things like, “Once we’re settled, I’ll get back into reading my Bible every day” or “once we have a place to call home,  I’ll join in a women’s Bible study and go on prayer walks again.” I feel restless and drained, distant from my Savior because I’m caught up in the difficulties of this season. 

Even as I write this, feelings of guilt creep in, along with a nasty case of the “shoulds.” I should be reading my Bible every day, regardless of the circumstances. I should be having spiritually challenging conversations with those around me, even if I don’t know them very well. Should, should, should. Blah, blah, blah. However, I need to remember that I belong to a gracious God, one who, even though He may discipline me when I’m sinful, “will not take [His] love from [me], nor will [He] ever betray [His] faithfulness…” (Psalm 89:33, NIV). He is a faithful Savior, the “true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1-5, NIV). (Warning: miniature grammar lesson ahead). The critical word here is “remain” or “abide”. This is in the aorist tense in the Greek, which means it refers to an action or even that happened at a point in time, without regard to past, present or future. It implies that at “x” point, I began abiding with God (salvation), and I continue to do so simply by the nature of salvation. So I know that I do abide with God, and He is faithfully pruning me and growing me, in the appropriate seasons, using my circumstances to prune, water and refresh me.

So I’ll call this a season of transition. It may feel a bit like winter, but it won't forever. I’m finding a new groove, I’m resting in the fact that I’m connected to the Lord, and that there will be a new season of fruitfulness coming soon.