Fall is the middle, a shifting. Each brilliant leaf lazily drifting down is a reminder--although I don't care to be reminded, thank you very much--that winter is coming and, with winter, barrenness and stillness and cold. Or as a friend recently reminded me, "Fall is actually a beautiful death." Then, after the earth lies dormant, we will beg, under layers of scarves and coats, to see the little sprouts on trees that announce spring is coming.
After growing up in a place with two seasons (blazing hot and a month or two of sort-of cold), I love living in a place with four distinct seasons. I remember as a child browsing my mom's Land's End catalog and wondering who really wore all those heavy winter coats and snow boots. It seemed like a magical, far-off place. And I now live in that place, a real-life Land's End catalog!
Four seasons means I've had to learn the necessity of salting our driveway and the art of wearing scarves. We make the annual trek to the apple orchard and enjoy being outside in the not-blazing-hot summer before the hibernation of winter.
I love the seasons because they break up the monotony, but also because they have taught me so much about life. They've taught me this most of all:
You can't have it all, at least not all at once. There are seasons for everything under heaven, but you can't have the tulips when it's the leaves' turn to show off. You can't force the trees to sprout when snow is climbing up their trunks.
We can't have it all, at least not all at once. To believe otherwise is to run ourselves ragged, spinning wheels but never getting anywhere, and definitely not getting anywhere with any semblance of joy. To believe otherwise is to go against nature, the very nature that speaks to the character and activity of God.
There will be seasons of fruitfulness and seasons of barrenness.
There will be seasons of beautiful, blossoming new life and seasons of beautiful suffering.
There will be seasons when we are filled and able to give and seasons when we are empty and need to receive.
There will be seasons when God appears to be living and breathing everywhere and seasons that are dry and quiet under His watchful care.
There will be seasons when He says yes and seasons when He says no.
There will be seasons when His love feels like delight and seasons when His love feels like discipline.
And what is our response? The response is what I'm really thinking about. Our response of obedience--a yes to God--often means a no to a million other little things. We can't have it all, at least not all at once. Sometimes that feels like the beginning of summer--freeing and warm and wildly satisfying. But sometimes that feels like the tail end of fall--little deaths like each leaf fluttering in the wind. It requires faith that, in the barrenness and stillness, God is preparing a new season of fruitfulness. We must wait. And we must rejoice in the season we're in, not wish for what's next.