This time of year always seems to bring reflective thoughts to the forefront of my mind. Perhaps it is because I am grasping at a reason as to why we are almost in the month of May, where the year will soon be completing its half and the seasons will continue to change as God has so ordered. The old phrase "Time sure flies" is taking on new meaning as I get, dare I say, older.
Life is full of seasonal changes. It all starts when we are born. We grow from an infant stage to toddler stage; from toddler stage to pre-adolescence; from pre-adolescence to teen and from teen to adult. Then there is college, career, marriage and possibly children. When children enter the picture we have the privilege of living all the seasons of life we have just completed, only now it is through the eyes, ears, hands and feet of our own children. That privilege is an awesome experience.
It is my opinion that in our area of the United States we are truly blessed to experience all four seasons; spring, summer, fall and winter. Spring symbolizes new beginning, new life, awakening and rejuvenation of a world that has been dormant. Grass turns beautiful shades of green (if yours is not turning green, you may want to try fertilizing it, or consulting with a lawn care specialist), flowers are starting to grow and will soon bloom into many brilliant colors. The fields are being prepared for the crops that will be planted and even the animals have a different outlook on life. Then comes summer; summer represents continued growth and nourishment, as well as maintenance. Roses must be trimmed, grass will need mowing on a regular basis (unless of course you are conserving energy due to the price of fuel), and crops will need the proper sprays, watering and fertilizers. There is also the pressure of where to fit in the many projects that need completing and when the much needed vacation will be taken. Then, fall is ushered in with back-to-school activities, changing colors on the tapestry of the earth, harvesting of certain crops, and celebration that God has provided for all of our needs.
Now comes the season many do not look forward to, winter. Winter has a way of giving the appearance of death. Leaves have fallen off the trees, flowers have long been gone while some lawns turn brownish yellow (should have used the fertilizer). The interesting thing I've discovered about the world of winter is this: even though there is no outward evidence of growth in most plants, trees or shrubs, growth is taking place. It is taking place on the most rudimentary level; in the root system. Without strong roots, plants will neither withstand the colder climate, nor bring new life in the form of leaves and flowers in the spring.
I believe this to be a very appropriate metaphor of how we journey through the seasons of life. We do experience different seasons and each one is necessary; even the season of winter. In fact, I would dare say that the winter seasons we experience are some of the most important we will live through. If we have taken on the proper nourishment and maintenance, spiritually speaking in the warmer climates, we will be strong enough to weather the colder climates. Although we may not see any outward signs of growth, they will be happening on the most important level, which is inwardly at what I like to call the "character" level. When growth occurs at this level, it brings strength and nourishment to our entire being. Bill Hybels, noted author and pastor, has said that character is defined as who you are when no one is looking. This is the level of growth that God desires to produce in all of us. James chapter 1, verses 2-4 summarize it best: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
One final thought: If a plant is allowed to stay in healthy, fertile soil, and not uprooted and planted over and over again, it is likely to flourish in its growth process and become beautiful. Likewise, it is best to grow where we are planted.
In other words: if we are constantly moving around from church to church trying to find the latest greatest soil we are kidding ourselves to believe that we will gain any long term growth.
Grow where you are planted!
- Pastor Bob North of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Church