Seasons and Instability

I used to look everywhere for stability. Having grown up living with a fair amount of worry, I can say now that much of the source of anxiety in my young life (and even as I grew older) had to do with a distaste for change. A fear of it really.

I wanted my life to look like the black and white sitcoms I used to watch on Nick at Nite where the children seem to never age, the dad works for the same company and the same boss for the length of the series, and the mom’s wardrobe consists of dresses different only in their pattern, not even their style or length. This was stability to me. And, as you know, this is fiction.

Stability isn’t quite a myth, but what I have learned is God never taught us about stability — instead He created seasons.

In the beginning, God made the world with a rhythm of rest and work. He worked for six days, then rested for one. Put it on repeat. He set it in the skies, for all of us to see, heavenly bodies that would mark the seasons. The sun gives us days and years, the moon months, and the stars light up the dark every night. There’s a rhythm.

My husband, a native Coloradan, jokes that we have no seasons in Houston, it’s almost true, but most other places elsewhere experience some semblance of seasonal weather. Whether it’s a winter, spring, summer, and fall, or a rainy season followed by drier spells, we learn what to expect — not by stability as much as season.

The problem sometimes comes when we recognize the beauty of this in nature — our planting and gardening schedules, visiting the best places for fall foliage and vacationing by the beach in the summer or snow skiing in the winter — but we have a hard time seeing the seasonal beauty in our own lives. We live in one of two extremes. Either we despise change, longing for a stability life was never designed for or on the other end, longing for change so much that we end up creating chaos in order to keep ourselves from getting bored. But neither of those is God’s design for us. He created the world, and us in it, to live seasonally.

This year, covid-19 has thrown a wrench into all of our plans, but if you think about it, what actually happened is our seasonal life got thrown off. The school year isn’t supposed to end in March. Summer flights aren’t supposed to be grounded. Even Thursday night chips and salsa night at our favorite restaurant was put on hiatus. We weren’t sure what to expect next which is off-putting when we were wired to anticipate with some amount of knowledge. We know when the mornings start getting a bit cooler, fall is around the corner and when the malls switch their music selection, the holidays are in sight. But when something unexpected came on us globally, it disrupted our rhythms. Truthfully, we’re still not exactly sure what season we’re in.

But that’s okay, because sometimes in life, an upset can actually mean a reset. I think about the disciples, many of them fishermen who made their living off being able to read the times and seasons and live in rhythm of going out and coming in, had their lives completely disrupted when Jesus called them to Himself. They dropped everything they ever knew to enter into a new season of learning and adventure. For those three years, they didn’t go back to fishing like they had known. They had a new season — follow in the literal footsteps of Jesus, pace for pace, walking in His rhythm. Then, when His time on earth was over, they didn’t know what to do again, so they went back to the rhythm they had known before, fishing, but that life would never be the same for them. They each had a new call to teach others what they had learned in their off-season, the one that didn’t make sense at the time but was everything they never knew they needed.

What if we looked at this time in 2020 as a kind of off-season? It’s not what we’re used to and our normal skills of anticipation feel useless at times, but what if part of what we find is the thing we never knew we needed. Maybe the thing we never knew we needed is a lesson in lament, where we learn to grieve with those who are grieving around us. Maybe the thing we never knew we needed was to learn how to slow down from warp speed to a pace more suitable to walking with Jesus. It could be that this off-season is a season in and of itself. We’re not sure how long it will last, but like the groundhog who may or may not see his shadow, we can use this time to learn how to bunker down with Jesus for the long-haul, not just a possible six more weeks of proverbial winter.

God can turn anything around for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). And part of leaning into a seasonal life instead of searching for stability is learning to trust in that. In the middle of August in Houston, 60-degree days seem a lifetime away, but if we just trust, we remember the next season really is right around the corner.

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