I am clearly stuck on the concept, the reality, and the need for the seasons of life. This will be the third time I have spent time dwelling on seasons in my writing but it is ever present in my thoughts. The whole idea intrigues me. Not only our seasons of life, but also how they relate to the seasons in nature and why we, as humans, complicate our seasons instead of simply flowing with them the way they flow in nature. Before sunrise one morning last week, I spent some time in deep thought about this contrast between the two and how we each approach the seasons differently.
I thought about the multitude of animals and how they handle the different seasons. In the spring, they naturally come out of hiding to enjoy the warmth and the buffet of new things to eat. They run, stand in the sunshine, chase one another, have babies, and get plenty of exercise. In the summer months, they seem to simply enjoy the art of living. In the fall, they begin to plan ahead for the winter months. Some animals may prepare their winter homes, some build up food stores, and others become more timid for their own protection, because the leaves are not hiding them as well as they did in the spring and summer. In the winter, their lives slow down to a snails pace. They eat to survive instead of enjoyment of the lush options to fill their bellies. They spend much quality time with their families. They rest more than any other season but yet they stay on guard to protect themselves and their families from any predator that may see them because there are fewer places to hide.
Animals instinctively know what to do in each season. No one has to tell them, prod them, console them, prepare them, or help them to move from one season to the next. They instinctively know how to prepare for each oncoming season. They instinctively know the behavioral patterns that are necessary for survival in each season. They instinctively know when to change their lifestyles to match the season. What would happen if a deer decided to be stubborn and chose not to make the lifestyle change needed in winter? He would most likely quickly lose his life! He would be an easy target for a hunter or would not have the stores and strength to make it through the winter if he kept looking for grass or other green plants, instead of relying on what is available for his winter diet.
The long winter season I went through after my husband died looked very much like that of the animals. My life slowed down to a snail's pace. Most days, I ate only to survive…not because I wanted to eat but simply to give me enough strength to make it through the winter. I spent large amounts of quality time with my family and it was the longest season of rest I have ever experienced. (We are still in need of the extra rest, almost like a mother bear needs a long period of hibernation in the winter.) Interestingly, I also kept myself on guard to protect my children from any harm during this season. I felt as if we were exposed just as the deer are exposed in an open field in the dead of winter. I wanted to protect their hearts at all cost. I feel like I did all of these things instinctively but I recognize that many people, while in “their winter”, ignore the season and try to pretend it is still spring or summer.
Why is it that humans do not move quite as instinctively or as willingly through the seasons of life as do the animals? Are we so busy and out of touch that we miss the cues or do we love a particular season so deeply that we deny the truth that it must and will come to an end? Why are we so surprised when a season ends and a different one begins? Why do we deny that certain seasons will or should ever come? Unlike the animals, we have a heart and emotions…this complicates things and can get in the way of our ability to accept the seasons and their purpose.
Everything in creation has a proper time and a cycle…and yet we think we can beat the odds and so we attempt to make certain seasons last longer because we don’t want them to end or, conversely, make them end sooner than they should because we grow impatient.
In the Old Testament, the book of Ecclesiastes has a profound teaching on seasons. In chapter 3 verse 1, it tells us not only is there a season for every matter, but also a season for every purpose! This can be the hardest season to put behind us…the close of a purpose…especially when we have loved that particular purpose, been invigorated by it, felt secure while enveloped by it, learned great things from it, grew through it, taken to new heights by it, or our souls were stirred by it…but purposes are seasonal. We often forget the good news that there will be another season with a new purpose that will do these things again for us but in a fresh new way. The seasons and purposes build on one another.
In Ecclesiastes 3:2-8, all of the seasons are listed corresponding with their opposite season. They all exist and they all must take place. We must then learn to recognize their beginning and their end and embrace them…no matter the season or the purpose. There is take away value in each.
…break down/build up
…cast away stones/gather stones
I love that, by God’s grace and mercy, weeping and mourning are followed by laughing and dancing! Laughing and dancing represent freedom and pure joy! God knew our physical bodies could only handle the weight that comes with grief, mourning, and crying so long and then we must break free. We must cast off… What better way to break free than to laugh and dance! The freedom that comes from dancing and laughing lifts away the weight and brings joy back to life. This is a season I am willing to step into and embrace.
I want to keep my eyes straight ahead and be completely present in every season and every purpose that God brings my way. I want to receive all that He has for me in each season. I want to recognize purpose in all things and I pray that I will have the wisdom to discern when a matter has served its purpose…and another change of season and a new purpose begins.