After the long, cold winter we had, I’m thrilled for summer. The sunshine. The warmth. Getting outdoors. Add to that it’s our Summer of Reentry, and I’m giddy with seeing friends and family after a long pandemic induced bout of loneliness. It’s summer!
Yet something inside me doesn’t feel like summer.
I read an article recently that helped me understand my internal season-confusion. Austin Kleon wrote in response to a popular article that defined the “blah” a lot of us are feeling as languishing, a word defined as becoming weak or feeble, as continuing in miserable or disheartening conditions. Austin wrestled through that idea of languishing and decided that he felt more like he was dormant. Instead of feeling weak or miserable, he identified more with a tree that was waiting to wake up and feel life again.
It got me thinking, where am I on that psychology spectrum Austin spoke of — from depressed to flourishing?
Austin’s comment, “It is a mistake and a misreading of nature to think that you, a living creature, will be flourishing all the days of your life,” also pushed me toward deeper inquiry as I realized I’ve been living life assuming I should be fourshing all the time. And that’s just not natural. So, I’ve been seeking to understand what season I’m living in now.
Decades ago I taught Freshmen English to a group of eager beavers who graciously followed me through a study of the lengthy book about King Arthur’s life, The Once and Future King. The author creatively structured the book of Arthur’s life around seasons.
- Spring — a child who looked for his place, pulled the sword, and became a young king full of life and hope and ideals
- Summer — the thriving years of his kingship, finding love, establishing the Round Table, doing a lot of good, producing lots of fruit
- Fall — as the name evokes, the beginning of Arthur’s fall: betrayal, division, struggle after struggle
- Winter — the death of relationships, Camelot, and a legendary king
I loved teaching this novel because of all the great imagery, lively characters, and this seasonal structure. The comparison of life to the natural seasons has stuck with me, which could be a reason I resonated so much with Austin’s description of seasonal disconnect — how emotionally we can feel like winter (or some other season) on the inside even though it’s summer outside.
Naming our internal season frees us to live from where we are instead of where we think we should be. I’m figuring out that not every season of my life is going to be summer — I am not going to be flourishing all the time, no matter how much I desire it. I need seasons of rest, of filling and regeneration. I need seasons of struggle in order to stay true to who I am in Jesus and stick to the path He has for me. I need seasons of death, where I have to let go of the unhealthy or embrace the ending of something so that I can move forward in newness and hope. I need the fall, winter, and spring seasons so that I can live into each summer full of godly confidence, eager to flourish for Him.
Despite the bright, hot, vacation-filled days this summer holds, my soul isn’t quite there. Yet when I think of words like languishing and dormant, I think of winter — and I’m not there either. I’m not the dead seed on the ground. I’m not the full plant bearing fruit. For me the soil has thawed out, and as the seed in the ground, I’ve warmed up, growing roots deep into the nourishment of the soil. I’m awakening but not fully grown. Not ready to flourish because I’m in the early stages of spring!
And I’m learning to be okay with this season. Thinking about my soul-season of spring and the seed I am, I am recognizing the purposes of this particular season. I’m learning much about myself, learning how to anchor myself in God’s love, learning how to draw all I need from Jesus. It’s a season of preparation not production. And it helps my heart to see the difference. It helps me pause before I try to run ahead of the process, ahead of God. It helps me be more intentional as one who sees her great need for all that God is trying to give me — even if I can’t fully identify those spiritual goodies each day. It helps my trust in God solidify and my joy sanctify.
Grace for Self
In simple terms, I’m learning how to have grace for myself. I’d much rather be in the throes of summer, fully grown and fruitful, but resisting the season I’m in only sets me up for a lot of frustration and discouragement. Since I’ve begun to embrace this awakening season of preparation, I’ve become more content and able to look for what God has for me each day. Without grace, I grow impatient and want to rush headlong into a season I’m not ready for. I’m discovering that spring, as a season of the soul, is one of waiting. And waiting requires grace and trust. As well as patience.
“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14, NLT)
This final verse of Psalm 27 comes after a litany of requests and rememberings of the writer, King David, and it captures the cry of my heart of this season — no matter how I feel or what I face or how I wrestle with where I am, I need to wait patiently for the Lord. I can be brave and wait patiently, not in my own strength and resolve, but by God’s grace.
Take inventory, friend. In what season is your soul? Think of the plant’s life cycle — are you flourishing and fruitful like it’s summer? Are you exhausted and need a season of rest, allowing your leaves to fall to the earth, stepping aside from all the fruit-making for a season? Are you in a winter season that feels equal parts dry desert and frigid tundra, full of death or dormancy? Or, are you like that awakening seed in the ground that is growing deep roots or a seedling that pushes upward toward the Son in new life?
In your journal, take some time to identify your soul’s season. List, doodle, draw, or write about what season you’re in, despite the bring sun and high temperatures outside. What are some ways to have grace for yourself as you re-enter life this summer if your soul season is not summer? OR, how can you have grace for yourself as you feel impatience with the pace of life or other people’s speed of reentry? Finally, think about how grace can give you patience as you wait for the Lord this summer.
Austin pointed out it doesn’t do any good to try to flourish in the middle of a dead season. Plants know this instinctively. Let’s learn from them and allow God to do the work of healing and restoration when we find ourselves in the fall, winter, or spring of our souls — even though it is summer outside.
It’s my prayer as we continue to live out this Summer of Reentry, that we can do so with wisdom about our soul season, with grace for ourselves, and with patience to wait on God’s leading through each step of the season. I pray we can embrace where we are so we can live out the grace we’ve been given, knowing that one day we will flourish!
- Grappling with our own need for grace makes us more compassionate for others, as well as ourselves. Share a little of that grace this week by spreading joy!
- One idea for this week’s #SpreadJoy — write a note to someone who’s on your mind — for no reason except to let them know you’re thinking about them or to tell them what they mean to you! Go, spread joy!
- One of the songs on our Reentry Playlist, “Next to Me” by Jordan Feliz captures this tension of wanting to live at our own speed, even out of season: “I’ve been on empty. When I’m low, You fill the cup, but my ego fights back, telling me that I’m ready to grab the wheel and take control. But I’ll crash if I don’t let myself go.”
- If you want a little more music in your life as you seek grace, here’s a Grace for the Journey Playlist.
- I hope you’ll take time to journal about the season of your soul and the grace you’ll need to live in it well.
- We will meet back here in two weeks! Don’t forget to #SpreadJoy.