You can’t delight in or share God’s love when you’re constantly pining for the next season of life.
I love fall. I love the cooler temps and how the air smells crisp but the sun still warms the day enough to get outside and play or relax. I love the beautiful colors. I love pulling my jeans and sweaters back out after a summer of shorts and flip-flops. And, yes, I love “pumpkin spice”—lattes, candles, you name it. Autumn may very well be my favorite season. And yet…oh the beauty of a softly falling snow and the crystal glitter when the sun comes back out. Or the first hint of warmth after a long, cold winter, and the profusion of pink and white blooms on the trees that line streets. Or lazy hot days at the beach, complete with slightly sandy lunches and tender sun-baked skin the next day. Yes, I love fall, but I love spring and summer and winter, too. Can I really choose a favorite? Each time of year brings so many wonderful things. And each season has its downsides, too. Kind of like life.
When people make small talk, the weather usually factors in. But I’ve noticed something. Instead of mentioning all the great things they like about the current season, people (myself included) are far more likely to focus on what they don’t like right now. Dead of winter: “I hate the snow! I’m ready for warmer weather.” Middle of summer: “I just wish it weren’t so hot; those 90 degree days are just too hot to do anything!”
Why do we do that when, as my list above points out, there are so many great things to love with each season? But we do. And we do it with life’s seasons, too. Just the other day I was talking about seasons of life with a friend, and I realized just how often I have focused on the negative aspects. How I have resented what I can’t control and have longed for the “next” phase rather than living in the present and treasuring what is now.
When Eric and I were dating, I was in college in Indiana and he was here in Fort Collins; I just wanted us to be together. I took an insane number of credits each semester (we’re talking 21-plus) to speed up the process and spent very little time enjoying the fun and freedom that college could have been. And then when I had babies and toddlers, I always had my sights set on when they would be sleeping through the night or potty trained. I lived on the ragged edge of a sleep-deprived exhaustion. I wish now that I’d taken more time to lie on the floor with them and nuzzle my nose into their baby-fresh necks; wish I’d spent more time eliciting that giddy baby giggle that comes from the gut and brightens the whole room. Later, it sure felt overwhelming to be homeschooling four children on four totally different levels while making sure everyone was fed, clothed and to the right activity on the right day. But now that I look back on it, we were all home—together. Now one works in Tennessee, one works and goes to school full time and we barely see her, one’s not homeschooling anymore, and most nights there are only three or four of us at the dinner table. Too bad I wasn’t savoring those loud, obnoxious, try-and-get-them-to-eat-their-food-with-some-manners dinners while we still had them all.
It’s amazing how bogged down we can get in the daily grind. Life in 21st-century America is busy, exhausting. Most of the time we feel like we’re treading water, barely able to breathe. It wasn’t what our souls were created for. So we resent.
I’ve never been good at slowing down. I’m a Martha through and through. You know the story—how Martha kept up a frenetic pace, prepping a dinner for Jesus while her sister, Mary, sat at his feet. Jesus lauded Mary’s choice and chastised Martha’s (albeit gently). I’ve always felt frustrated by this encounter. “Not fair!” I’ve cried to the Lord. “You’re the one who made me, who designed my temperament. Why should I be punished for being who I am?” Like a small child pitching a fit over something that just is, I have arched my back and hollered in protest—even though everyone has something that they battle.
But it’s the character flaws that force us to turn to God in desperation when we should have been sitting at his feet all along. Those days of crazy when I was running four kids four different directions? Often I felt like I didn’t have time to spend in prayer and Bible reading. But when I did take the time, when I fed my soul, I had so much more to draw from, so much more to give. It’s at his feet, quiet and stilled that we learn to slow down. As we learn to love our time with him, we also learn how to savor life’s moments. As we learn to love him with abandon, we learn to really cherish the people he’s placed in our lives.
As my children are aging into adulthood and I am realizing just how quickly those phases of life pass, I am learning to slow down a little, to see the good in the now. I’m far from adept at it. I’m still learning to be content. But I’m taking the time to focus on what is beautiful in this season. I’m taking more advantage of a quick text to stay connected with Heidi and let those few words fill my cup rather than grouch that we can’t have a cup of tea together anymore because she’s halfway across the country. And I don’t see Amanda much these days, but I cherish our chats as we brush our teeth before bed. I stop what I’m doing more often to listen to Garrett because I know how fast these four years of high school will fly. And while I still homeschool Jason, I’m more likely to set aside the spelling test to jump in a pile of leaves.
Seasons of weather and of life are all about learning to see the good and the beautiful in what’s now and savor it. So go jump in that pile of leaves. Soon they’ll blow away.