Someone forgot to tell my blueberry bush that, actually, it is fall right now.
And my neighbor’s Azalea bushes also failed to get the message!
I don't know what will happen to the buds on my blueberry bush, but I do know the Azalea flowers will soon be destroyed as the rain and colder weather finally makes it here to Portland, Oregon!
Like the plants, we humans are responding with delight to the warmth --t-shirts and shorts briefly reappearing--long walks, big smiles!
I know there are places in the world where the seasons are not so distinct. Actually, Auckland, New Zealand, where I grew up, is one of them. But there is something very meaningful about watching the movement of the seasons --the way God set up the rhythms of life on planet earth -- the lessons we can learn about God and life through being aware of what is going on in nature.
The pattern of... well, where do we begin when we think of the seasons? Spring, when life is just reappearing? Summer, when the major growth is happening? Fall, when harvest happens, and then death begins? Winter, with its apparent death, and yet all sorts of things happening unseen, without which spring would not be possible.
We tend to like to think in straight lines. Life moves from birth to childhood to adolescence to adulthood to retirement to death. However, you don't have to have lived long to know that life actually turns out to be more like a spiral or at times a line that seems to bend in the most unexpected up-and-down ways and at times even seems to dead end.
We move through many seasons during our lifetime.
Part of the key to responding to that is the willingness
to accept the gift of a particular season and recognizing
each has its value and its lessons. And not to be like my blueberry bush who decided a few sunny days meant spring is here, even while its leaves were turning red getting ready to fall.
Have you ever had a time in your life when you mistook the season you were in. Hindsight is a great gift, and as I look back, I can identify a season in my life when I thought it was spring and the opening of a new ministry. Let me tell you about it.
Over a decade ago, in a book I was reading, I came across the words “spiritual direction.” As I read the author’s definition, I became very excited. He was describing what I had always wanted to be able to do, help others hear God for themselves. Investigating, I found George Fox University offered training in spiritual direction. Sign me up! I couldn’t wait to get trained and begin a new way of offering hope to others. Imagine my annoyance when I found I was required to do several pre-requisite classes before the spiritual director training. As I was only a part-time student, this meant several years’ delay. Grudgingly, I signed up for the first class. Thus began an unexpected journey into a new season, a new way of being with God.
Thinking of my blueberry bush, I see the correlation between the buds out of season that will never have a chance to become fruit, and my journey to become a spiritual director. This was not the season for me to be fruitful. It was actually a “fall” season, where many of my beliefs about God, myself, and the meaning of life had to fall away; a slow winter followed as I opened myself to new lessons and ways of being. I realize now, I was not who I needed to be to be able to sit with others and enable them to gain the wisdom they needed. I had a lot to learn!
The winter season that followed seemed long. Yet, during that time, the seeds that had been planted were lying fallow, awaiting the right time to begin to grow. Spring began to appear. I found a different program and retrained as a Spiritual Director, and this time I was able to grasp a clearer picture of what that meant and to gradually grow into the role that means so much to me.
Does this resonate with you? Sometimes, we need to sit quietly with God and look back at our life and ask for clarity about what has been going on and what some of those more difficult “winter” seasons have offered us. There is value in doing this with a trusted person, someone willing just to listen as you wonder out loud about what happened, someone who will be quiet enough not to want to rescue you, but to allow you to listen to God as you talk. You may be fortunate to have a friend like this. Or you may decide to seek help from a spiritual director.
I am not sure what you picture when you hear the words “spiritual director”. We often think those words give an inaccurate picture, as our goal is to allow God to be the director, and for us, as an spiritual director, to be present, to hold sacred space for you as you share, to listen, and maybe to help you to notice what you may be overlooking. Such listening is an invaluable gift.
Is that the invitation God has for you now?