The changing seasons, spring and autumn, lend themselves to reflection on the rhythm of life. For different reasons, they each are reminders of the Old Testament covenant God made with Noah and "all flesh" on the earth, "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease." (Gen. 8:22, RSV).
It is the time of year when our diet changes to include heavier and richer foods. Cooking inside brings welcome heat and humidity to our environment. Early evening can feel like bedtime, and the sun seems to have as much trouble rising to do its work as we do. There will be a day that will begin warm and windy and end with a chilling rain. The air will be filled with falling leaves and working outside will bring with it a craving for a hot drink and a fire.
It was nearly 100 degrees only four weeks ago, today I have a fire in my fireplace and am ready to turn the heat on. The reason for this is that the change happened before we noticed.
The autumnal equinox confirmed the changing of the angle of the sun. The sun no longer heated the earth north of us for as long and that cool air takes a while to move south. The fruit on the trees ripened and began to fall. The leaves, having done their work, began to dry up and change, some of them being consumed by next year's butterflies, moths, and flying insects. After months of green, growth, and production harvest came.
Changes in life are much the same. There are spans of time in which we go through our routines followed by what seems to be a sudden change.
The signs are there all along, it is just that in the lazy days of summer we bask in the heat and soak up the sun - as we should do. But then there is a gust of wind, a chilling rain, and darkness that lets us know that it is not summer anymore and it is time to adjust.
Hopefully we have prepared for winter when the weather was good. It would have been a shame to waste all those wonderful glorious days of summer only living for the moment (which is different that living in the moment) without thought or care for the changing seasons to come. It is challenging indeed to face a winter without proper resources stored for the dark days ahead.
Our spiritual lives go through the same rhythms and changes as the seasons. In my experience their timing is not nearly as predictable as the changing seasons, but they will come. There are seasons of growth, seasons of production, seasons of harvest, and seasons of needing to use stored resources and waiting for the spring.
One of the hardest things for some people to do is learn to use stored resources in times of life we might call winter. The leaves have fallen, the wind is chill, the days are dark and for one who is accustomed to having plenty and giving these can be hard days. They are hard enough in themselves but made harder because trying to do summer activities in the winter will simply not work. For people who are accustomed to giving to others, learning to accept help can be nearly impossible.
For others, learning to give can be just as hard. It seems that some live in a perpetual "winter." A constant state of crisis with no ability or desire to learn how to recognize opportunity for change and growth. Walking around acting like it is winter in the middle of summer looks . . . well . . . a little strange.
Seasons are changing all the time, sometimes imperceptibly. Wisdom teaches us to prepare for the changes before they happen. Maturity and experience instruct us to notice the signs of change before the windy, rainy day that knocks us into sudden realization.
Over time we naturally adjust to the changing of seasons and by doing so teach others to do the same. Not by words only, but by the way we prepare and calmly face those changing seasons. What I read in time of spring or summer is different that what I read in times of fall or winter. I use my time differently. My sleep patterns change a little. My activities change.
Every season has its blessings and challenges and they are all from God.
Every season is a season of opportunity, if we are ready for it.
Sean Niestrath lives and ministers in Madisonville. You may contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.