As I wrote the other week in my reflection on the Resurrection, I have long appreciated the metaphor of Spring. Since growth is also a favorite metaphor, this should come as no surprise, and indeed, the first blushes of new life are so very welcome after a long and difficult winter! But more than just the return to growth, the coming of Spring is a rich metaphor because it is so slow and gradual. For those of us in colder climates, the visible appearance of new growth is not one of the first signs of Spring, but comes only after long weeks of melting and thawing. This means that Spring is as much about slush, mud, and ugly browns as it is about buds, flowers, and beautiful greens. Spring is actually rarely pretty in a temperate climate like most of Canada’s.
This idea has become all the more important to me over the past eighteen months or so. One day when I was feeling particularly discouraged over the emotional hold a series of unfortunate events years before still had over me, I had an image of an iced over river starting to crack. This was a threefold reminder to me: First, that Spring was on its way — that this frustrating emotional grip was going to loosen, just as the ice cracks and flows downriver and out to sea; Second, that the process was probably going to be messy — just as broken ice will often jam and cause flooding in the surrounding woods; And third, that I had to be patient and let the season change — I could do no more to rush this change in my heart than I could rush the arrival of warm temperatures in April. It was a hopeful image, but also a realistic one. I could expect change, but it was going to take time, patience, and likely even mess to get there. And sure enough, that season of feeling trapped and haunted slowly, gradually, and messily shifted into a season of renewed life, energy, and creativity.
As much as I love the metaphor of the coming of Spring, it is only part of a bigger metaphor of the seasons themselves. And I think this is also important to remember. Not every month is April and not every season in our life is marked by new beginnings and growth in all facets of life. There are seasons of Summer, marked by warmth, joy, and the firstfruits of the year; there are seasons of Fall, marked by fruition, harvest, and endings, and seasons of Winter, where the ground of our hearts lies fallow, recovering and resting up for what comes next. By respecting all of these seasons of life, I think this metaphor can help us counteract the anxious culture of more that has crept into our society and so many of our hearts. Not every season of life is going to have abundant growth, or visible fruitfulness. And that’s okay. It also means that not every season of life is going to be marked by endings, muck, and emptiness too. And even those seasons have their purpose.
Moreover, the seasons all have transitions within them. Spring starts with mud and ends with green grass; by the end of Summer the green fields have turned to gold; Fall begins with fruition and ends in decay and barrenness; and Winter often begins with a welcome rest and ends in cabin fever. (Just think of how differently people react to the first snow of the season vs. the last! What is magical in December is a curse in March.)
Like so much in life, so much of how we experience the seasons of the year and of life alike is a matter of what we choose to focus on. Do we focus on April’s showers or May’s flowers? Do we let late Summer’s wasps overwhelm our enjoyment of its picnics? Do we focus on the beauty or the inconvenience of a snowy Winter’s day?
Similarly, do we rejoice in the fruit a relationship or opportunity has borne in our lives even as we mourn its ending? Do we allow ourselves to enjoy the rest a fallow season can offer even as we long for new opportunities?
It’s a matter of perspective, and a matter of allowing the seasons of life to be what they are.
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven. (Eccl. 3.1)