Have you ever gone sledding in the summer? What about waterskiing in the winter? Odds are that you haven’t done that before because it would be ridiculous and nearly impossible to pull off well. There are certain activities that are just meant for some seasons and not for others. I was recently shuffling through photos and found a picture of me and my boys at the local swimming pool last July. As much fun as that time was, it would be absurd for me to look at that picture on this cold day in February and make the conclusion that we ought to pack up our swim bag and head down to the waterpark after school. It’s absurd because I wouldn’t be taking into consideration the difference of the seasons. Although swimming outside is enjoyable and a great activity to do in the summer, February is not the time for it. We must wait until the weather warms up and the pool opens its doors for the summer.
What does this obvious observation have to do with anything important in our lives? I know that I do this same absurd comparison both spiritually and emotionally. As I scroll instagram, I can find myself in a comparison game and catch myself saying things like “I should be doing that”or “I wish I could go there”. I look back to my own past photos, remember all the great things I was doing years ago and feel the weight of the life I am living now being so very different. I feel a less important working part time and raising kids as a single mom, than when I was traveling the world and serving the poor on daily basis. I have come to realize that when I do this, the spiral of shame and guilt comes in strong. Just as our year comes in different seasons, so do our lives. We have seasons of suffering and seasons of rejoicing. We have seasons of singleness and seasons of relationship. We have seasons with young kids and seasons as empty nesters. We have seasons of spiritual growth and seasons of spiritual melancholy. We have seasons of work and seasons of rest. We have seasons of abundance and seasons of need. It can be tempting to look other people in other seasons than us and begin to compare unrightly. It is as if we are trying to go sledding in the summer when we try to push things into seasons that are just not the right fit for this time.
One of the greatest blessings in my recent life has been being a part of a writer’s group. We talk almost daily using the Voxer app and are intentional about meeting up once or twice a month for encouragement and support. These women constantly inspire me with their strength, dedication and hard work. There are 7 of us and all of us are in different seasons of life: Single, married, divorced, a mom of littles, a mom of elementary students, a mom of high schoolers, recent empty nester and a great grandmother are some of those seasons represented in our little tight knit group. It could be easy for me to watch these women in different seasons and life circumstances and think my output of writing should look the same as theirs. If it isn’t, I could begin to feel the shame that I am not good enough. Some of these ladies have written books and bible studies. Some are in the midst of writing great things and being published, and some like me are struggling to get a blog post out once in a while. What they have encouraged me with is to remember my season and to do what I am called to do in it. I can look around at the season that I am in and in contentment walk through it open handedly. Paul describes this in Philippians 4. He says “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. Contentment is hard if we are in a season we did not choose, but it absolutely possible.
Living in Illinois during the winter is hard time to be content. The weather can be brutally cold and we long for those warm summer days to return. During the summer my boys and I play outside everyday and we love swimming. This week my boys and I went swimming at the YMCA. It wasn’t the beach or a waterpark, but because we love swimming, we chose to do so in a space that was available to us. We made it work with what we had and it was awesome. Last week we also made a snowman, made snow ice cream and hot chocolate while we watched a movie by the fireplace. Winter is not our favorite season, but I have learned to find the joy and do what we can in it. If we wasted our winter season away longing for a new one, we would miss what is right in front of us. In the same way. I never want to use seasons as an excuse not to be doing something God has called me to do or to be obedient to his Word. For example, just because I have young children and a single mother, doesn’t mean that it’s not my season to serve the church and those around me. it just might look different than how I did it pre-children. I may not be able to go late night youth activities anymore, but I can serve on Sunday mornings when there is already childcare provided. I may not be able to fly to Africa or to the Mexican border to do missions work, but I can love the people God has put right in front of me in an ESL class. I can look up and see the immigrant, the orphan, the widow and the poor in my own community. I can disciple my sons from my very own home and teach them how to live like Jesus. It’s not the same as others I know doing great things, it’s just different and that’s okay. Ecclesiastes 3:1 teaches us “ For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”. We don’t need to fret if today isn’t the season you wish to be in. We must try to see the beauty of what is possible for today. Go swimming inside or build a snowman, write that book or a blogpost, take that missions trip, or serve at the local food pantry, teach that class or take that class, go after that dream job or stay at home with your kids. Whatever your season embrace it. Don’t long for the next season to come along and miss what God has for you today.