26 Sep The Change of Spiritual Seasons
While Pastor Michelle is away on a much-deserved study break, we are reposting some of the “best of” her amazing writings.
Not infrequently in my faith journey, I find that I am in need of a “traveling companion.” A couple of weeks ago I began reading Mark Buchanan’s book, Spiritual Rhythm, and it is proving to be a perfect “friend for the road.” In the book, Buchanan talks about the seasons of the spiritual life. Winter, spring, summer and fall come to all of us who walk with God, but they have nothing to do with age or stage of life. A retiree can be in the midst of spiritual renewal (spring) while a young person can be in the throes of spiritual crisis (winter). Or vice versa. Usually, it is a particular circumstance or experience that propels us into one season or another.
Buchanan wrote the book as a result of being plunged into the deepest winter of his life. His dearest colleague and friend in ministry, his co-pastor, in fact, died from an aggressive form of cancer. His profound grief rocked him to the core, and all of a sudden, he was in winter’s icy grip. I read that section of the book and could relate. As we reached the 6-month mark of my father’s passing last month, I was caught off guard at how difficult that milestone was, with the grief washing over me like it did in the very beginning. Buchanan’s book reminded me of what a common experience grief is—it is something that virtually every human being must deal with, usually numerous times over a lifetime. That doesn’t make it any easier, but it is a comfort to know I am not alone.
I have now begun the “Spring” section of the book, and my first thought was, “Yes! Spring will come again.” What a wonderful, hopeful reminder. And, summer and fall will also come at some point, and I will likely cycle through them all again several times. One of the blessings of time is that when we’re in a difficult period, we know it won’t last forever. Like the physical seasons and seasons of life, we are always moving from one to another, though spiritually, the seasons do not always follow the normal, expected pattern. We sometimes jump from winter to summer or fall to spring.
Each of the seasons has gifts and opportunities that are unique. There is a special beauty to each season, different from the others. Work and play also differ in each season. That’s obvious enough in the physical seasons: we ice skate or ski in winter, not summer. We plant in spring, not winter. Spiritually, there is unique work to be done and play to enjoy in each season, too.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about four spiritual types, four “languages” through which people experience God. The four types include theological reflection, service, mysticism (or prayer) and emotive experiences. Every Sunday church pews are filled with people who most readily worship and understand God and themselves in these different ways. Add to that the fact that those same people are all in different seasons of life and different spiritual seasons, and the mystery of worship is apparent. It is truly miraculous that through the music, scripture, prayers, liturgy, sacraments and sermon God can and does speak to each person uniquely. No two people hear the same thing or experience the same thing.
The physical season around us is changing. With the celebration of Labor Day last weekend, summer is unofficially over. Neighborhood pools have closed. A new school year has begun. The traffic has gotten noticeably worse again. And soon, the transition from summer to autumn will be “official” with the arrival of the fall equinox. This changing of seasons invites us to pay closer attention—to the different feel in the air, the new colors appearing on the trees, the disappearance of peaches and watermelons from the grocery store and the arrival of pumpkins. Consider this a time to pay closer attention to your spiritual season as well. What gifts are awaiting your notice? What work is there for you to do? I’ll share more about spiritual seasons in coming weeks. In the meantime, look up! Look around! God is with us no matter the season.
Yours for the Kingdom,