Shifting Seasons

Shifting Seasons
Avril van der Merwe
Photo credit: Avril van der Merwe 2021

     “Be glad people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.” Joel 2:23.

     A few years ago, a close missionary friend and I set aside a few days for a personal retreat. One lovely fall day, we set out on a walk to find ourselves a quiet spot each, in which to be still and hear what the Lord had to say to us individually.
     I was drawn to a sprawling tree, still heavy with golden fall leaves. Beneath it spread a carpet of leaves that had already fallen. It had rained during the previous night and the ground was wet, but the day was dry and mild, so I spread my rain jacket at the foot of the tree and sat with my back resting against its trunk. This reminded me of Jesus’ disciple Nathanael, of whom Jesus said, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you” (John 1:48). I prayed that Jesus would “see me” under my tree also, because I longed to hear His words to me personally!
     In the hour that followed, God spoke to me clearly in several ways. One of those was to do with the leafy canopy over my head, and the golden carpet of leaves I sat on. I became aware of the faint smell of plant decomposition. When I looked more closely, I saw that underneath the visible golden layer, was a further layer of leaves that had fallen earliest from the tree. These had already turned into brown fragments that would shortly become indistinguishable from the soil on which they rested.
     I am a summer, sunshine girl! The hotter the weather, the better I like it! I love the vibrant color and light of the summer months and often deplore the passing of that season. Cold weather is not my friend, and winter is my least favorite time of year! As much as I love the colors of fall, I mourn the passing of the summer.
     Yet as I sat under my tree on this fall morning, my eyes were opened to the God-given purpose in the changing season: Leaves fall when summer season is over. For a while they look beautiful, but eventually their falling and decomposition seem like a kind of death. Yet those dead leaves are not wasted. Instead, they are absorbed back into the soil to nourish it. Then, replenished with nutrients, this soil supports and nurtures the new, vigorous growth and fruitfulness of the next spring and summer.
     I was overwhelmed with a sense of God urging me not to be sad for what seems like a death from a season that has passed – that nothing has been wasted, but instead the very thing that seems to have “died” will provide nutrients in the soil of life to bring forth new, vigorous growth and even more fruit in the season to come.
     Winter is a time of rest in the natural world. Yet it is not a season of redundancy. Rather it is a necessary period during which plants and seeds are being prepared for the burgeoning life of spring. Without winter’s repose, spring’s vigor would not be possible.
      The same is true in our own lives: When a season in life or ministry has passed, there may come a period during which it seems something has withered, and “nothing is happening”. This is not a time of redundancy, but rather a period of rest and preparation for the abundant life God has purposed for us in the season to come. Instead of mourning, let’s open ourselves to His work deep within us, in the secret places, allowing the Holy Spirit to replenish, renew, reinvigorate, and prepare us for His new, coming season of fruitfulness.
     If we embrace this process and surrender to the Lord in it rather than resist it, surely there will be a time when we will again hear the voice of our Beloved calling, “Arise… and come with Me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land” (Song of Solomon 2:10-12).