Last weekend in Los Angeles, we had 90-degree weather. On Saturday, I wore shorts and flip flops; on Sunday, a sun dress.
I am very tired of the summer.
Don’t get me wrong—one of the reasons I love living in Southern California is the near-paradise weather. We rarely get rain, bask in 80 degrees in January, and shudder at the winter frigidity of 50-degree nights. When it comes to the weather, we are spoiled rotten. However, I don’t want a perpetual summer. It’s the middle of October: I want to start wearing sweaters, boots and scarves—even if scarves in Southern California are used more for decoration than to keep one’s neck warm.
However appealing it may sound to have summer all year round, I am so thankful that God created four seasons instead of one. The changing weather is our primary indicator for the passing of time, and with the change of seasons come changes in food, clothing, and habits. In the transition from summer to autumn, strawberries and avocados give way to squashes, carrots and oranges. I begin not only to wear more clothing, but my wardrobe pallet has darker tones than my summer dresses and t-shirts.
The changing seasons also bring us a shift in mindset. Spring is alive with new growth and reawakening—I get itchy to be out in my garden, planting iceland poppies and sunflowers. Summer has undertones of care-free ease and the fullness of life and strength. By the time we reach autumn, there is a waning: the days grow colder, and I begin to think of pumpkin treats, blankets and cozy sweaters. Winter is the sleeping season: the whole world seems to be hibernating until warmer days come to reawaken life again.
The holidays we celebrate compliment these various mindsets. Easter reminds us of the hope and new life we have in Christ—it would be an odd holiday to celebrate in November, with the long season of cold and darkness before us. Thanksgiving commemorates the completion of harvest—it would be improper to celebrate the holiday in March, when the planting season has barely begun.
Even though October is much too early for carols and gingerbread houses, I become antsy for Christmas about this time every year. Last fall was the exception. I did not get an early craving for Christmas because for the first time in my life, I experienced a true autumn. I was studying abroad at Oxford University, which has a latitude just north of Vancouver, Canada. I had to rely on not only scarves to keep my neck warm, but mittens for my hands, and wool socks for my feet. I fell in love with the sharpness of the cold air and the changing colors of the leaves. Warm pumpkin treats became even more special, because they belonged to their own unique season, not just the vague period following summer. I was not impatient for winter, because I was able to experience the full season of autumn.
Our God is amazing. He knows that we need consistency, but He also knows that we need change. We always have summer, autumn, winter and spring—and always in that order. Summer does not give way to spring; winter never proceeds autumn. We also do not experience the desperation of Narnia’s 100-year winter, and life would be boring if every day was a repeat of the perfect 80-degree weather from the day before.
Even though I appreciate distinct seasons of weather, I do not always value differing seasons of life in the same way. Solomon, one of the wisest men who ever lived, understands this principle better than I. He writes in Ecclesiastes:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, 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, ESV)
I don’t want a time to mourn—I would be perfectly happy to always dance. I would rather laugh than weep; I would rather have peace than war. Yet, just as the change from summer to autumn is good, it is fruitful to break down, as well as build up. God uses various seasons in our lives to teach us different lessons. It is easier for me to learn humility in failure than in success, and I will never learn to seek well if I don’t first lose something precious.
One of my favorite songs by Nichole Nordeman is Every Season. It reminds me that change leads to growth, and that God is present not only in the bright strength of summer, but also in the darkness of winter. I need to learn to better appreciate change, and look for God’s guidance both in mourning, and in laughing.
This post aired on Evangelical Outpost on September 17, 2013.