“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 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, 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.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
As the summer season slips most definitively into autumn, l always feel a combination of loss and excitement. I have loved sitting in the sun on my back deck, and enjoyed the beauty of my lilac bushes, fireweed, petunias, and pansies, ending with the grand finale of gladiolas in their variety of colors. I have picked the bounty of vegetables from the garden and made fresh salsa and zucchini pizza. I have baked pies from the raspberries and rhubarb of summer. I’ve loved the aroma of chicken or burgers on the grill as it wafted in the open window. Putting away the summer outdoor furniture and toys yesterday forced me to acknowledge that this moment of finality is here once again, closing the chapter on summer 2022.
The season has shifted to swaying trees with gold, yellow, and red leaves that drift off their branches and flutter down onto the green grass. The long hours of daylight have given way to a growing darkness that feels unfamiliar after the summer months in our Land of the Midnight Sun. My husband is diligently splitting and stacking wood in preparation for feeding the wood stove through the colder months. I’ve put away the summer decorations on my front porch, replacing them with pumpkins, fall colors and floral arrangements.
Seasonal shifts force us to acknowledge change but embracing them is optional. An attitude of acceptance is a choice. The passage from Ecclesiastes 3 implies acceptance of the various “seasons” of life, and the inevitable changes they bring. It’s very matter of fact in its poetic rhythm of embracing the opposites in life. For some of us, embracing change can be a process. Whenever I have moved, even when it has been to a better house or situation, I have grieved the place I am leaving before facing the challenge and excitement of making a new home. When Christmas is over, I reluctantly put away the tree and the decorations, savoring all that recently transpired while celebrating my favorite holiday. I get over it, but I do acknowledge my wistfulness before embracing what is next.
I choose to accept all the changes in my life as God nudging me forward and moving me into what He has for me in the new season. He doesn’t demand that I instantly embrace them, but He waits patiently for me to catch up and find the joy in what is new or next. In birth and death, as we have had both in 2022, He offers to be near, and to bless. In our planting and uprooting, He can be seen and experienced. He comforts me when it is time to put the dog down and say farewell to a suffering, cherished pet, and He gives me strength, patience, and encouragement as I walk the long road of healing from surgery.
There is much to be learned through the changing of both literal and figurative seasons. Both carry life-lessons for us that can deepen our knowledge of and relationship with God…as long as we are looking for Him, listening for Him, and seeking Him in the midst of these changes.
Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 says “What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” What is this ‘eternity in our hearts’? I think it is the awareness that we were made for something more, something eternal and permanent, something grander than our earthy, temporal experience. This awareness is very hazy right now, but one day will become very clear and bright within our souls.
I Corinthians 13:12 says “Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” We see in all these fragments of life experience a mingling of joy and sorrow at the same time, such as birth and death, planting and uprooting, building and tearing down, laughing and weeping. We don’t always understand God’s overall plan, and when we do, it’s only a partial understanding. But because God has set eternity in our hearts, we will one day have a full, clear understanding of what He is doing in our lives. It will be made beautiful…in time. Until then, we can only trust His word that He has a plan, and that the plan is a really good one.
I think this concept of someday “knowing” will be like one of those complicated movies where it starts near the end of the story, flips back to the beginning, and jumps back-and-forth out of sequence until it comes full circle to the end where it started. Then we’ll go “OH! Now I get it!” What a masterful Author we have. We are still in the middle of the story, so to speak. We will one day “get it” but for the most part we are simply experiencing the moments, deepening our knowledge and relationship with the characters in our life, and doing our best to learn from and make sense of what is taking place, trusting that we will at some point understand. BUT, we won’t fully understand until the end of this life and the entrance into the next, when we see Him face to face.
I’ve given up asking the “why?” question and am content to know I’ll have an answer someday. For now I prefer to ask the question “Who is journeying with me?” and to be satisfied that I can walk this road, with God, in childlike faith, enjoying, embracing, or enduring the changes that come my way. He knows where we are headed, He knows how and when we will get there, and I simply have to trust Him to lovingly lead the way. I believe He’ll fill me in on the whole purpose behind all the twists and turns that life-changes bring, once the journey is over.