I am from a region of Georgia where the season changes are very distinctive. Spring, summer, fall, and winter all have their own characteristics and beauty.
Spring actually begins in mid to late February with some early arrivals of perennials. Each year growing up, I eagerly awaited the fresh green shoots of the daffodil stems from the ground. I would walk around the yard and daily measure their progress. I would inspect every spot of ground where I knew they were planted and I was so excited to see them. I knew by those fragile stems that winter was coming to an end and spring would soon be there. The trees would start leafing out and more and more buds would start forming. It wouldn’t be long before the cherry trees, the dogwoods, the azaleas, and the pear trees were covered in blooms. Yes, spring is incredibly beautiful in northern Georgia.
The days would then start getting longer and warmer. The new leaves became clean and green and summer was not far behind. One thing very clearly let me know summer had indeed arrived: the wonderful smells in the air. There is nothing quite as intoxicating as a nice warm breeze on your face and mussing up your hair while along with it comes the most delicious smell in the world...honeysuckle. Personally that smell lets me know beyond a shadow of a doubt that summer has come. The time for vacations and barbeques, for friends and family, for swimming and waterparks all begins with the undeniable fragrance of honeysuckle.
Fall is so subtle you almost miss its arrival. It begins with the days getting shorter and a small “nip” in the air. It is my favorite season and I expectantly await all year for its coming. The cooler nights, the comfortable days, “sweater weather”, football games and bonfires, these are all indications. However, I keep an eye out for the changing of the leaves – that is the hallmark of the fall season. Incredible hues of reds, purples, yellows, and oranges paint the hillsides and there is absolutely nothing more beautiful! Fall is God’s canvas and it is majestic to behold. He is an incredible painter.
Winter is marked by the cold, of course. You know it is official on that first morning you awaken to frost covering the ground and your car windshield. The dew has frozen on the grass and you have to crank your car about 15 minutes before you leave in order to defrost your windows so you can drive to work. Yes, it is time to settle in for the winter.
Each season brings its own beauty and everyone can partake of it. Each person has their favorite (and their not so favorite), but there is no denying that all the seasons show God’s handiwork.
I find that I am so accepting of these natural times and seasons as a given – they are supposed to happen, they are a part of our world and we normally don’t question “why” we have these changes of the seasons. They are just part of life.
So I began wondering… why do I question the times and seasons in my personal life, when the Bible so clearly states in Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 that for everything there is a season, a time, for every activity under heaven?
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8New Living Translation (NLT)
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die.A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal.A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh.A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend.A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate.A time for war and a time for peace. What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.
I have come to realize that certain times in my life I welcome and embrace with open arms. Other times I dread with a fear that can overwhelm and consume me. Is it the change itself that I fear, or just the “unknown” that I am uncertain of? Either way I know that instead of trusting God during the seasons, I am trying to head them off. Trying to control my time. I want to choose for myself when and where my “times and seasons” are.
Then I look closer, delve deeper into these verses and I re-read verse 11: “1Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”
WOW! Very deep. Since this verse follows immediately after the times and seasons verses I am inclined to believe that God intends for beauty to be found in the times of killing, of tearing down, of crying, of grieving, of scattering, of turning away, of not searching, of throwing away, of tearing up, of hating, of war.
But wait...these are things I dread. Things that I normally run away from with full force. Or things I am drug toward kicking and screaming and acting like a tantrum-throwing toddler. Some of these things appear negative, most are painful, all are life changing. None seem beautiful. Yet, without these times in my life how dull of a person would I be? How shallow? How self-consumed? How one-dimensional?
We all know people who seem to have the “perfect life”. Nothing bad ever happens to them, they always seem to get everything they ever wanted, life is always good. But once we get to know them we find there are no facets to their character, no complexities, no imperfections… in truth, no beauty. They have missed out on the times of their lives that would bring the healing, building up, laughing, dancing, gathering, embracing, searching, keeping, mending, speaking, loving, and peace.
My so-called intellectual self says, “How can the bad, the negative, the hurt, and the pain bring about beauty”? Mostly it is a mystery, but “even so people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”
I know in my own life the former “times“ make the latter “times” more precious and the memory of the latter “times” make the former “times” bearable. But I am beginning to understand that it is not just about getting through these the negative times. It is about knowing that these times are just seasons, they have a beginning and an ending...and they also have a purpose.
Romans 8:18 says “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (NKJV)
God wants to do something glorious in us. He wants these times in our lives to bring out the best that He chooses. Yet, I find myself saying, “Yes Lord, do something glorious, do something beautiful, do something wonderful… but do it on my terms, in the conditions I choose, and by all means don’t make it painful!”. How arrogant, how foolish, how non-glorious.
God told Jeremiah to “go down to the potter’s shop and I will speak to you there. So I did as He told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.” Jer 18:2-4
So then, He is using these seasons to mold me and make me over and over again to be something beautiful, something useful. I don’t get to choose when these times, these seasons are, or how they happen, or how long they will last. However, I do get to choose whether or not I will submit to Him, to trust Him during these times. I get to choose to embrace the seasons of “bad” and “good” to become what He is making me into. All of these times, these seasons point toward “the eternity He has planted in every human heart”, where His work is complete and we realize just how beautiful His plan was from beginning to end.
Putting it all into perspective, we realize that even though there is beauty in all the natural seasons, beauty comes with a price as well.
Spring in Atlanta is indeed unforgettable and amazing, but one can barely make it through the astronomical pollen that is created by all the blooming flowers and trees. The people know that for at least a full month (usually longer) you are going to suffer through sneezing, watery eyes, losing your voice even, and inch thick yellow pine pollen that covers everything – cars, porches, hair, you name it. None escape it. There is no reason to do anything about it until the pines stop pollenating. One learns quickly it is a losing battle to even try. Everyone knows this is the price paid for the beauty shown.
The summer brings insufferable heat and mosquitos, gnats, fleas, and other blood-sucking insects. Yet, there is nothing more glorious than a beautiful summer night under the stars with a tall glass of sweet tea, inhaling the delightful scent of gardenias and jasmine.
The majesty of fall soon brings leaves falling to the ground so thick and so often one could rake and mulch every weekend for the entire season and still have some on the ground the first frost of winter.
Winter with its frozen beauty gets so cold at times that no matter how many pairs of socks you can put on and still manage to stuff your foot into your shoes your toes are in a constant state of frozen.
This reminds me that even nature with the beauty that can be found in all of its seasons has both “good” and “bad” that is accepted by one and all. Just a part of life, a part of God’s creation. In fact, I see clearly now that He uses them as a reflection of the times and seasons in my own life.
What then is the conclusion? Well, mine is to say “Lord, thank you for the times that are painful, that create uncertainty, that tear up, that make me evaluate what my priorities are. They make me so much more grateful, thankful, prepared for the beauty, the healing, the building, the laughing, the mending and the loving. And hopefully, just hopefully, they make me more of a reflection of who you are. Showing Your glory and your faithfulness is a world that so desperately needs to see You”.