Chapter 11: Seasons of our lives
Every year we are blessed with spring, summer, autumn and winter. I suspect we all have our favorite season and are filled with expectation when we notice the early signs of seasonal changes. I do! Initially when I started to write this, I found myself on a rather comfortable garden bench during spring time, amazed at how quickly the new leaves had formed on trees surrounding our home. Summer was a few steps ahead and I was looking forward the inviting smell of a barbeque, or as we say in South Africa the ‘braai’ and long warm summer days.
In our house you can feel the expectancy when summer is approaching. Our girls cannot wait for sun filled days and glorious blue skies. Lisa and Emma’s idea of a perfect day is to spend as much time possible in a swimming pool. A good friend of ours who lives just across the border in a small rural town surrounded by the French Alps and can testify to this as we make use of our southern hemisphere openness to invite ourselves often to his home in Peillonnex to test out their pool!
Autumn sometimes creeps up like a thief in the night, but then serves up a glorious painted canvas with bright rich colors of red, orange and yellow. Great for photography – I still need some work on my nature photography skills which do not come naturally as I am drawn to photography genres involving people, emotions or abstracts creations. Autumn prepares us for the challenging cold and foggy winter months which are ahead. Just as for spring, in a house filed with girls, autumn seems to create its fair share of confusion judged by the apparent difficulty in making choices for them in what to wear. Like many men before me, I have given up in trying to fully understand this dilemma and sometimes faint sympathy when I hear a rather familiar “… but I have nothing to wear …” phrase during these seasons. Glad to be a guy! With winter the choices seem somewhat easier, as long as it is warm and in shades of black or grey. In these cold months I give a special thanks to God for blue sky days in snow covered mountains and fun or sometimes in my case survival on the ski slopes when trying to keep up with the kids).
As the years pass, I realize that the seasons in our lives are not always that easy to discern. Changes are not as certain or predictable as those of the seasons we encounter in nature. As we all have experienced in some form, sometimes change is forced upon us, at times we try really hard to manufacture it ourselves (many times without success). Change also seem to materialize slowly over time and we only realise what has place when we are able to look back over a period of many years. As the years roll on (my 30 year high school reunion is coming up in September this year and sometimes it feels like yesterday when I was still in school, especially when I think back of all the things we did way back then). I have noticed some distinct seasons in my life. Certainly they did not follow the predictable order of what God serves up though nature so graciously year after year, but were part of a process where I was able to grow with Him and be equipped in ways I did not think possible to better deal with the next season He has in store for my life.
In Ecclesiastes 3 1-8 , A Time for Everything, Salomon writes that:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace – (New International Version (NIV)).
I love this passage. Every time I read this passage, there is something different which grabs me as I think about own experiences or what is happening with loved ones and friends around me. It may surprise you, but I have never read the book of Ecclesiastes until I did so for the first time recently. What a pleasant surprise! From my recollections of years ago and from what I learned from recent sermons I have listened to on Solomon’s live, I was familiar with many of the great things he had achieved during his life. I was rather less familiar with how he dealt with worldly matters and temptations. So it was interesting to hear his words on and the conclusion he draws.
In Ecclesiastes 9: 11-12 – A Common destiny for us all, Salomon writes that: I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them – (New International Version (NIV)).
In the end Salomon comes concludes that faith in God is the only way to find personal meaning. He decides to accept the fact that life is brief and ultimately worthless without God. I agree.