Sunday, November 11, 2012

Shifting Seasons

  “After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will restore us, that we may live in His presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth” (Hosea 6:2, 3).

     Recently a close friend and I set aside a few days for a time of personal retreat together. On one lovely autumn day, we set out on a walk with the express purpose of each finding ourselves a quiet spot in which to be still before the Lord, and hear what He had to say to us individually.
     I was particularly drawn to a sprawling tree, still heavy with golden leaves. Beneath it spread a carpet of the golden leaves that had already fallen. It had rained during the previous night and the ground was wet, but the day was dry and mild, so I spread my rain jacket at the foot of the tree, and sat with my back resting against the tree trunk. This reminded me of Jesus’ disciple Nathanael, of whom Jesus said, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you” (John 1:48). I prayed that Jesus would “see me” under my tree also, because I longed to hear His words to me personally!
     In the hour or so that followed, God spoke to me clearly in several different ways. One of those ways was to do with the golden leafy canopy over my head, and the golden carpet of leaves I sat on. I gradually became aware of the faint smell of plant decomposition. When I looked more closely, I saw that underneath the immediately visible golden layer, was a further layer of the leaves that had fallen earliest from the tree. These had already turned into brown fragments that would shortly become indistinguishable from the soil on which they lay.
     I am a summer, sunshine girl! The hotter the weather is, the better I like it! I love the vibrant color and light of the summer months, and often deplore the passing of that season. Cold weather is not my friend, and winter is my least favorite time of year! As much as I love the colors of autumn, I mourn the passing of the summer.
     Yet as I sat under my tree on this autumn morning, my eyes were opened to the God-given intention in what was happening around me: Leaves fall from a tree when the season is over. For a while, as they fade, they look beautiful, but ultimately their falling and decomposition seems like a kind of death. And yet there is great purpose in this. Those dead leaves are not wasted. Instead they are absorbed back into the soil in order to nourish it so that, replenished with nutrients, it is restored to ground fertile enough to support and nurture the new, vigorous growth and fruitfulness of the next spring and summer.
     I was overwhelmed with a sense of God urging me not to be sad for what seems like a death from a season that has passed – that nothing has been wasted, but instead the very thing that seems to have “died” will provide nutrients in the soil of my life to bring forth new, vigorous growth and even more fruit in the season to come.
     Winter is a time of rest in the natural world. Yet it is not a season of redundancy. Rather it is a necessary period during which plants and seeds are being prepared for the burgeoning life of spring. Without winter’s repose, spring’s vigor would not be possible.
      The same is true in our own lives: When a season in life or ministry has past, there may come a period during which it seems something has withered, and “nothing is happening”. We should accept this not as a time of redundancy, but rather as a period of rest and preparation for the abundant life God has purposed for us in the season to come. Instead of mourning, we should open ourselves to His work deep within us, in the secret places of our spirits, allowing the Holy Spirit to replenish, renew, reinvigorate, and prepare us for His new season of fruitfulness to come through our lives.
     If we embrace this process and surrender to the Lord in it rather than resist it, surely the time will come when we will again hear the voice of our Beloved calling, “Arise… and come with Me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land” (Song of Solomon 2:10-12). 
     He is Lord, sovereign over our moments and our days. Let us rest in and embrace His purposes for us in every shifting season of our lives.

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