For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
A few days ago I heard birds chirping with all their hearts just as the sun was rising – birds and sun, the harbingers of spring. A day later, two birds swooped down to rest on the railing of our balcony far above the piles of snow. It’s time for the changing of the seasons. The day after the welcome sights and sounds of spring, I read this arresting thought by Louis Lotz, one of my favorite devotional writers.
“Just as seasons change in nature – spring turns to summer, summer to fall, fall to winter – so the seasons of life change. And the genius of life is knowing what season you’re in, what time it is in your life. I learned the hard way (which is pretty much how I learn anything) that when the gears of life just don’t seem to turn in harmony, when you are trying to make something happen that clearly doesn’t want to happen, it’s not so much that you are doing something wrong. It’s that the season changed and you didn’t notice. You’re still trying to plant when it’s time to harvest. You’re mourning when it’s time to dance” (Louis Lotz in “RCA Today,” Winter 2018).
It occurs to me that celebrating the changing of the seasons, both in nature and in our lives, could be a beautiful soul-training exercise. In Holland, Michigan, the changing seasons dictate how we live: we celebrate spring with boulevards of tulips and greening clumps of yellow daffodils; in summer, we relish the sunshine and venture playfully into the warming waters of Lake Michigan; we breathe in the crisp autumn air and glory in the oranges and golds and reds of the leaves; we welcome the lacey snow showers and romp in the drifts. As the seasons change we mourn our losses. Yet we know that the earth will turn again, and we will welcome the next season just as we always have.
Lou Lotz reminds us that our lives are like the changing seasons. As we age out of one season, we are flung into a new one, sometimes with little warning or preparation. Our task is to gracefully mourn what we lose when one season ends and move graciously into the next one, knowing that God is present in every change.
For me (and many of my friends), one of the problematic changes of seasons has been retirement, moving from a very active life to a life where time is waiting to be filled. Some of us become even busier because it seems that there is so much more time. Also, being steeped in the narratives of our childhoods and our community, we want to (and often do) stay busy – because feeling “unproductive” creates guilt and sometimes less appreciation.
Someone my age told me the other day that she felt guilty if she sat down to read a book during the day; she only felt free to read at night. I shared that my mother often asked me when I was a teenager (as she flitted busily around the house), “Don’t you have something better to do than reading?” I usually answered “No” under my breath as I got up to “make myself busy.”
I have worked hard to banish guilt and to welcome less frenetic activity, less responsibility – and less recognition. I’m more at ease with recognizing that my season of planting is ending and my time to harvest is here. I am learning to joyfully take time into my hands; I’ve even been known to read a book from cover to cover without moving! What a privilege!
Understanding the concept that our season of life “can change without [our] noticing it,” can be the opening of the door to acceptance and appreciation of life as it is now. If we don’t fight against the next season of life, our eyes can be open to how God is still using us, perhaps in subtler ways, to bring about God’s Kingdom one day at a time until we join him in a new season – eternal life on a new earth.