The four seasons in Michigan are sometimes referred to as Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter and Road Construction, aka Orange Barrel Season. However, when it comes to seasons changing, the date on the calendar is largely irrelevant. The line had to be drawn somewhere and the third week in March, June, September and December won the draw. The first day of spring doesn’t mean the end of snow any more than the beginning of winter is the end of shorts weather (which, to be fair, is anything above 45 degrees in Michigan). My personal favorite is when I use both heat and air-conditioning on the same day.
There is no doubt that it is currently summer in Michigan. Watering flowers on a hot and humid evening this week, I was tempted to accidentally spray myself with the hose, just to cool off a bit. It was as I stood over my flowers, two sandaled feet planted firmly in mid-July, that I saw the first sign of autumn. There among my impatiens lay the first of the hickory nuts to fall from the massive tree in my yard. I looked around, and saw more teamed up with the potted fuscia plant, gone crazy with summer blooms. The sidewalk was the squirrel version of Lucy & Ethel’s conveyor belt of chocolates. It was littered with dozens of nuts needing to be stored away.
As much as I love fall, it’s too early to think about sweatshirts, raking leaves and pumpkin-spice anything. However, seasons in nature don’t line up evenly. The last edge of summer doesn’t neatly stack up against the beginning edge of fall. They may appear linear but in reality, seasons always overlap.
Seasons in life rarely line up neatly either. There’s the season of “finding yourself” and a season of dating and searching out a life partner. But rarely is one season ever completed before transitioning into another. There are seasons of long hours and little free time when trying to advance a career and seasons of having babies and parenting young children. People the world over struggle to maintain those simultaneously. Seasons overlap, circle back, and sometimes wind up on an endless loop.
A season is often seen as something to be gotten through.
If I can just get through this stressful/busy/sleep-deprived time, I’ll be able to move forward into the next season in my life.
Somehow that presumes a season much easier than the current one. Fruitful, relaxing days filled with purpose that consistently wrap up in time to cook a gourmet meal, play with the gorgeous children, adore the loving spouse and still enjoy 8 or 9 hours of restorative sleep.
Yeah, book me a ticket to whatever time zone features that season.
When I think about the seasons in my own life, many of them felt late in arriving. In fact there were times I was certain I’d missed them. Earning my undergraduate degree, getting married, getting pregnant, all of them at one time or another included the same nagging questions.
Am I too late? Is this ever going to happen? Am I perpetually stuck in this one season, never to move into the next?
Like waiting for a bus that’s 15 minutes late, the doubts creep in. Do I have the right schedule? Was I not here when it came? Should I keep waiting?
Making those decisions based on taking a bus is reasonable. Trying to make those decisions in the larger scheme of life is impossible and can result in choices made out of fear and desperation.
We don’t have to choose between honoring the season we’re in and looking forward to the next if we trust in God’s providence. When it feels like a season is late in arriving, I need to remember that God is the one driving the bus, and He’s never late.
Sometimes I focus so much on reaching the milestone markers that I miss the countless smaller indicators that I am still moving forward and making progress. When a forgiveness issue pops up yet again, I can conclude absolute failure or I can recognize that God has healed my heart to the point where I am no longer bound by anger or bitterness. Not quite where I want to be, but not where I was.
There is work to be done in the spaces that overlap, but that is God’s work to do, not mine. If He is allowing a particular season in my life to stretch out longer than I’d like, it is because he is right here amid my messes and knows that I’m not ready to move on.
If I can’t faithfully follow Him in my current season, why would He deliver me into the next?
He will, though, allow us to catch glimpses in the gaps between, as we grow in the character of Christ. Kernels of wisdom when we search for answers. A sense of hope when we feel consumed with despair. Even discovering autumn hickory nuts among a summer garden.