Maybe one of the wisest things ever said by the wisest man who ever lived was this: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) I guess if you wanted to paraphrase this in a more modern bumper-sticker-ish vernacular, you could say, “Seasons happen.” Of course this simple reality is loaded with impact and import for our lives. One thing it points to is that everything changes. And it does. And it will, whether we like it or not. Everything that is physical or temporal in nature…changes! If you want proof of that, just look in the mirror or take a walk in a cemetery.
I’m not someone who always rolls with change especially well. Changes in government? Wow, we could use a few of those! Hurry please! But often change impacts us in the more trivial areas of life, areas that really don’t matter at all. I get a little grumpy when, for some reason, manufacturers decide that they need to change the packaging on my toothpaste or shampoo after thirty years. It makes it hard to find, and I think it just doesn’t look right in the cabinet or taste the same. (I don’t recommend tasting the shampoo.) They don’t care what I think. They never ask. They just change away. I work as a pastor for a church. Of course, change never causes any problems in churches…
But as hard as change is to accept sometimes, can you imagine how difficult and dreadfully monotonous life would be if things never really did change? The late great author C.S. Lewis wrote in his delightful Chronicles of Narnia series that one of the earmarks of a land controlled by the force of Evil was that it was a place where “…it was always winter, but never Christmas.” In other words, he suggested, the changing of seasons and events like Christmas that break up the dull/white/icy/drab/harsh monotony of winter—are a huge blessing. Lewis was citing Christmas as the great interjection of light and life and warmth into a world gripped by the gray of winter. But imagine the same truth related to other seasons. What if it was always summer, but never the Fourth of July? What if it was always fall, but never Thanksgiving? What if it was always spring, but never Easter? You get my point? All of those seasons are made special—and in fact desirable—primarily because the days shift and march from one event toward another, things and times we have learned to look forward to, even for which we have a longing. We call them holidays (from what used to be called Holy Days) in that they stand apart and usually give us pause and a reason to do something a little different from the daily flow.
I love the seasons, and I love living somewhere that we actually have them! The old wag around here is that if you don’t like the weather…just wait! Sometimes we’ve been known to experience all four seasons in one afternoon! I lived for, well, a season—about 12 of them actually—in Houston, Texas. One of the oddities about Houston was that being so far south, in a mild winter, there might not even be a freeze. That meant that trees didn’t lose their leaves all on one day in October like they do in Amarillo, and potted plants could grow to gargantuan proportions. For a West Texas boy, very much accustomed to the stark bleak and white of winter, that was strange. And you should have seen those webbed-footed Houstonites scramble if the temperature neared the extreme of, say, 40 degrees. (I remember well one of the three winters I lived there; it actually snowed an inch one day. They shut down the entire city!) I’m so glad I live in Amarillo again. It’s home. And I love the seasons here; I love that we’re moving into fall, which is my favorite. May it be long and glorious!
There is a point to my rambling, I hope. And that is that seasons, and the changes they bring with them, are very good things—even hope-filled things. To give example, I buried a good man last Monday. There are so many things I could say about Don Stark. He lived through 300 seasons, some 75 years, 40 of them spent in our church. And all through them one of the earmarks that described his life was that he was as faithful as the changing of seasons. In a time when so few men are the men God wants men to be, he stood out in his dependability and genuineness, season in and season out. And even as things changed around him in sequence and circumstance, he remained constant. Or did he? Maybe the secret of his success in life was that he learned to roll with the changes but at the same time didn’t change in the things that mattered most. Yes. That’s it. When the season of cancer came into his life a few years back, it changed a lot of things in his life circumstantially—but it didn’t change anything substantively. We learned from Don a lot about living well through a season such as this. I believe one thing that maybe helped him run the race so faithfully was the greater truth than cancer doesn’t last forever. Even though most kinds of cancer will eventually prove fatal—ultimately incurable—still, there is a well-known and readily available cure for death. Ever since Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave, death has been curable. Reversible. Don knew that. And it kept him running the race.
I’m in a current season of life (God has given me 226 seasons, so far) that is the busiest and most demanding through which I’ve ever lived. Sadly, it has been true for several years now that the pace of life seems to be picking up, right along with the number of appointments and endless lists of “necessary things” that have to be done to keep a church healthy and moving and growing. Don’t misunderstand. I love what I do and hope God lets me do it until my last breath. But the burdens of the realities of my life during recent seasons have been terribly demanding, almost suffocating sometimes. Always winter, but never Christmas it would seem—not that it’s bad or only filled with bad things. Just that it’s so crazy busy that one day flashes into the next seemingly without much hope that it will ever be different. Days, weeks, months—just begin to be about a rodeo-ish hanging-on so as not to get thrown or gored by the monster to which we’re saddled. I know what I need. I need a Sabbath. God invented the Sabbath to be a weekly season of rest and refocus. I know what I need. Physician, heal thyself!
Wrapping this up, I guess what I would say to you, dear reader, is to cherish the seasons because they do have a limit. You may get 300, or more. You may not get any more. Every one of them matters! And I would say that if you are in a particularly challenging or difficult or perhaps just demanding season of life—maybe you’re unemployed or caring for grandchildren in a role you never imagined, or maybe you’re sick and fighting a health battle, or perhaps the skirmish is relational or spiritual in nature, or you’re caring for aging parents, or even riding the bull named “success”—well, whatever the nature of the battle, keep repeating to yourself four words: It’s Only a Season. It’s Only a Season. It’s Only a Season. It is, you know. It won’t last forever. And there are things to be learned and seen and discovered in every season, both good ones and hard ones. And maybe the one other truth you simply must remember is that the God of all seasons—this God who never changes, and who is ever-faithful—is walking with you through this one toward the next. You are never forgotten, never abandoned, never alone.