Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.’”
There are lots of seasons going on these days. In New England, we are always aware of the seasons of the earth. We get four distinct seasons, even if sometimes winter pokes its head in to see what early fall is like or summer tries to test its rays on an early spring crocus. Which reminds me that even though fall is about to give way to winter, it is planting season. If I am to enjoy a harvest of spring crocuses, tulips and daffodils, I have got to get those bulbs in the ground now, even though it’s only 40 degrees outside.
It is also the holiday season, with its excesses of food, spending, and parties bumping up against the church season of Advent that tries with an ever-weakened voice to shout, “Wait! Wait!” With the season of holidays comes the season of family with the dramatic highs and lows that come from Hallmark-card expectations. Sometimes the holidays are filled with warmth and joy. But at our Thanksgiving dinner at the nursing home, where my mother fades away into the fog of Alzheimer’s, we could only escape into the warmth and joy of holidays past.
Every person at the table had endured much. There was my stepfather and his daughter, who already had lost a wife and mother to cancer, now bearing the weight of my mother’s illness and care. There was the woman and her two teenage sons who have been part of my extended family for decades. Her husband was family also, until that day in 2003 when the oldest boy came home and found his father hanging in a tree. My brother and his wife were in Missouri on a job. I was there missing my father, who has been gone 27 years now and wondering if my mother even knew it was Thanksgiving. And of course there was my mother. The honest laughter came only from the stories of days gone by, and I came to understand why someone would write a song called, “Thanks for the Memories.”
That’s why I love this famous passage from Ecclesiastes. In beautiful poetry, it reminds us of the same truth that God wove into the very fabric of Creation. To everything there is a season. Life is cyclical, not linear. We live through seasons—seasons that both fade and return. Some seasons bless us with warmth and harvest; some seasons challenge us to work or to courage, and we will experience them all, again and again.
In the Crayola splendor of fall as I bite into a Honey Crisp apple fresh from the tree, I don’t really want to think about winter’s howling nor’easters and walking the dog in the biting cold, although I know they will come. But after shoveling the third March snowstorm, when my bank account is groaning from the heating bills, the promise of Spring is my lifeline. Wasn’t that breeze just a bit warmer? Didn’t that rain smell a bit different? Is it coming now? Is that…why, yes it is a crocus poking up through the snow!
When the winters of life come, Ecclesiastes reminds me that the time to weep, to mourn, to lose…the time for war, for killing, for hating…is but for a season. There is also the promise of other seasons waiting in the wings—the time to heal, to keep, to embrace…to love, to build up, a time for peace.
Oddly enough, the 20 crocuses I planted yesterday need the winter. They can’t just be planted as happy flowers on a warm spring day. They go in the ground just in time for the hard, frozen ground to come, which gives them what they need to bloom. Winter is a season. There is a time and purpose for it, just as there is a time for spring and a time for every purpose under heaven.
Bear us up through the seasons, Lord, and may we accomplish your purpose in them. Amen.
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