In the last Listening on the Journey… blog post, I celebrated my summertime soul satisfaction. The day before that post was published, I asked a friend, who is a loyal reader and one of the most encouraging women I’ve met, how her summer was going.
I appreciated my friend’s honesty. Summer isn’t going well, she told me. Her beloved pets are struggling, and my friend is trying to make beneficial—but difficult—lifestyle changes following a disappointing diagnosis.
That same day, while watching the evening news, I was saddened to hear of the devastating diagnosis Senator John McCain received. Before falling asleep I prayed for both my friend and the senator. I asked God to wrap these two people in a blanket of divine love and to give each the transcendent peace only God can provide.
Thoughts about the blog post, the conversation with my friend, news about a highly respected public servant and the matter of spiritual seasons converged. Today, I’d like to communicate some of my reflections about summer and winter seasons-of-the-soul. In the future, I may discuss spring and autumn. Distinct characteristics exist in every season, and I I’ve experienced unique soul work is accomplished in each.
The matter of seasons-of-the-soul has fascinated me for a long time. I recall the gist of a definition from a commentary I read many years ago, defining the word “seasons” described in Psalms 1:3, which the NIV translates:
That person [one whose delight is in God’s law]
is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
The definition went something like this: “season” is a specific period of time, and God determines the beginning and ending.
For me, the calendar’s season of summer 2017 happens to be coinciding with my ‘Summer-of-the-Soul’ season.
This hasn’t always been my reality.
Looking through life’s rear-view mirror, I see more than one deep, dark ‘winter-of-the-soul,’ or as St. John of the Cross, a 16th Century mystic, called it, a “dark night of the soul.”
More hours of spiritual darkness than light characterized my days.
The ‘tree-of-me’ seemed lifeless—I often wondered if it had ‘winter killed.’
My branches were barren; no fruit was being produced.
Little sunshine warmed my soul.
Tears were more abundant than laughter.
‘Winters-of-the-soul’ can be dark, lonely seasons. I like ‘summers-of-the-soul’ far better!
I’ve come to realize ‘winters-of-the-soul,’ no matter how bleak, no matter how endless they feel, are essential for growth. Additionally, if I’m able to re-frame perceptions about winter seasons, I’ll be able even to embrace and appreciate the seemingly negative characteristics of the season.
When we visited Alaska a few years ago, one tour guide discussed their region’s long winter season (September-April). I’ve never forgotten his perspective. The guide told us during the non-winter seasons when tourism occurs at a frantic rate, citizens work long hours. Personal business, interpersonal relationships and responsibilities such as odd jobs around their homes are put on hold.
These folks realize during summer, they need to increase income to the maximum extent they’re able and beef up their bank accounts–perspective shedding light on the old proverb “Make hay while the sun shines.”
Alaskan residents realize winter is coming. During the long hours of darkness they understand are reality, they’re assured there will be ample time to rest up from hectic summer schedules, re-new friendships, resume important family activities, and complete unfinished business or tasks. Our guide said most residents welcome the promise of winter.
During summer-of-the-soul, I can savor God’s sunshine.
During winter-of-the-soul, I can grasp God’s grace through good work and community.
I don’t know what season your ‘soul’ is now experiencing, but I believe regardless of the season,
God is with you in it.
Important ‘soul’ growth is happening.
God understands even the unseen work being accomplished.
God cares, remains loving and is trustworthy in every season.
A new season will come!
No matter the season through which your soul is traveling, I pray God’s blessing on your journey…
Even as we can be certain the tide will always come in and go out, so we can be assured seasons, including seasons-of-the-soul, will not only have a beginning but also will end. The challenge becomes what do we do when we’re traveling through one of those not-so-pleasant seasons.