By Linda Paxton
The changing of seasons always brings to my mind a “Season-Based Life Lesson” our family experienced many years ago; one that remains a family favorite.
It involved a homework assignment given to my 8th grade daughter’s Sunday School class. It began with the pastor asking the class, “What has been the unhappiest you have felt so far in your young lives?” Students were invited, if they desired to do so, to share the incident that came to their mind. One young girl whose parents were in the midst of a divorce sadly responded that it was when her father moved out of their home. Another student spoke of an illness in his family. My daughter knew immediately that it was a point a few years earlier when she thought her beloved hospitalized Grandmother was going to die.
Once the sharing had ended, the pastor, as a homework assignment, asked the class to think seriously about their feelings during that unhappy time — sadness, fear, etc. And, the next week they would talk about those feelings.
At that evening’s dinner table, my daughter related the lesson and asked our family to share their “worst” moments and the feelings that accompanied those times. And, during that week, she gave a lot of thought to her homework assignment – fear, sadness, apprehension, loneliness, anger, etc.
When the class gathered the next week, the wise and compassionate pastor asked if anyone wanted to share their “feelings homework”. And many did. His next step was to ask the students to compare their incidents and feelings to the season of winter. Winter, with its cold, dormant and often dismal aspects. The room was silent – what was coming next? The pastor’s mood lightened and he then asked the students to think of the good things that winter brings – Thanksgiving and Christmas, perhaps a birthday, beautiful snowfalls, fun winter activities like sledding and skiing, the warm coziness of a fire in the fireplace. Remember, came the advisement and lesson, that when it seems you are in the midst of a “life winter”, look for the good things – the blessings that God will surely send your way during such a time.
“And now that we have identified our worst ‘winters’, your homework assignment this week is to think of the happiest time in your life and what feelings accompanied it. Happy remembering – see you next week!” were the pastor’s instructions.
During that next week, dinnertime at our house was filled with the sharing of happy memories and the feelings they evoked. And, the next week’s Sunday School class atmosphere was very much the same – upbeat, LOTS of happy sharing, etc. “So, we’ve come through our “winters”, what season follows?” asked the pastor. A resounding and enthusiastic reply filled the air as together the students happily shouted, “Spring!” “Therefore, just as God has planned the earth’s seasons, you will find that our lives will almost always follow the same pattern,” continued the pastor. “It helps us endure our ‘winters’ when we remember two things — to look for the blessings hidden within those times and that spring always follows winter!”
“How do our ‘summers’ and ‘falls’ fit into the seasons of our lives?” inquired the students. “Ahhhh” smiled the pastor, pleased that the class’ interest shone through in their inquisitiveness. “Summer” is often a lighthearted, relaxed time of fun, travel, etc. We might say it is a time of rest and rejuvenation. And, we should learn to take advantage of that season of our lives. From summer we roll right into the fall season that brings beautiful colors and cooler temperatures, a return to more structured schedules and also noticeable signs of nature’s preparation for the possible harshness of winter – falling leaves, the sound of whirling gusts of wind – a time of preparation for whatever lies ahead. In our own lives, we must learn to take heed of such signs of general unrest and prepare through prayer and attentiveness for the possible strife of a life’s ‘winter’ looming ahead.”
The students were urged to create a visible reminder of life’s seasons – one that would heighten their awareness of what ‘season’ they might be experiencing and where it could lead them.
Summer – carefree and relaxed
Fall – contemplation and preparation
Winter – challenging, yet filled with blessings
Spring – always, always follows winter
My daughter took the lesson to heart, made a sign for our refrigerator door, and our entire family embraced the awareness of life’s seasons. Whenever a family member was going through a rough time, a simple reminder of, “Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring” would help put their situation into perspective. This simple concept can often be applied to whatever and wherever our own lives have momentarily led us. It is natural to ‘overthink’ a circumstance or condition when, in actuality, if we could consider it in terms of a ‘season’ in our life’s current journey, it would be easier for us to prepare for it and navigate through it
Of course, I would love to wish each of you a life’s journey of springs and summers; however, we all know that wish is unrealistic. Nature’s seasons will continue to change, and ours will as well. I do wish for you the gift of looking at life’s journey through ‘seasonal’ eyes, for I believe you will find it extremely helpful in bringing joy and contentment into your life.