ďTo be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.Ē George Santayana
Whatís your favorite season? In my household, we have a friendly dispute concerning the answer to this question. Some prefer fall, with its cooler breezes, autumn colors, and Thanksgiving. Others love spring, with its new life, warmer weather, and Easter. The correct answer, of course, is summertime, with its longer days, family vacations, and slower pace.
As a native Californian, Iíve had friends from other regions scoff at the idea that California even has real seasons. Iíll be the first to admit that Californiaís seasons are not nearly as distinct as New Englandís. But no one around here confuses September for February. Even in sunny Southern California, we understand that different seasons bring their own rewards, challenges, and tasks.
As our more relaxed summer season winds down and we begin to gear up for the labors of autumn, Iíd like to engage us in a month-long series titled ďSeasons of Faith.Ē Just as there are rhythms to our years, there are also rhythms in our spiritual lives: bountiful and fruitful, stark and barren, chilly and windy, new growth everywhere. To be clear, Iím not describing the human life-span as four seasons, with spring as youth and winter as old age. Rather, Iím reflecting on various seasons that we might experience and move through a number of times throughout our lives (winters of hardship, springs of rebirth, etc).
During our first week, Iíd like us to consider the apparently bleak and unpromising season of winter. When we experience a winter season in faith, with all its chilling barrenness and soul-parching hopelessness, we are sorely tempted to presume God cannot be present in this season. We might also assume that if God truly loved us and cared for us, we would not be in such a bleak season. Not so!
The story of Scripture is full of winters: Egyptian slavery, the end of the period of the Judges, exile in Babylon, the story of Job, the Psalms of lament, Jesusí crucifixion, Paulís thorn in the flesh, the persecutions of the early Church. All of these winters are characterized by Godís apparent absence, lack of care, and unresponsiveness. The witness of Scripture is that despite appearances (and our despondent feelings), God is not absent from his people.
In each season of faith, there are activities (and inactivities) that are most appropriate. Wisdom suggests we should strive to know what faith season we are in and seek to match our activities with it. May God grant us the ability to discern and to do what is right and appropriate for the seasons we are living.
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