As we morph from summer into fall, the transition comes so naturally to many of us. Black teas give way to chai and chocolate, citrus to pumpkin spice, and vibrant greens and blues retreat to give yellows, oranges, and reds prominence. The question “do I need a sweater,” looms in the back of our minds as we embrace the seasonal layering and plan our projects for the retreating sunlight hours. I love autumn, always have.
In fact, I love all the seasons and feel I spend an inordinate amount of time reflecting on nature’s seasons and the way in which they seemingly coincide with my life. Parables throughout the bible reveal their gems through the reference of nature, and God’s own handiwork is revealed through nature time and again. (Job 12:7-10; Psalm 24:1; John 1:3) If all of nature cycles around the commands of God and his purposes, are we not part of his purpose? (Isa 43:20)
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky and they will tell you; or speak to the earth and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of these does not know the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”Holy Bible, Job 12:7-10
Arielle Schwartz, PhD., is a licensed clinical psychologist and trainer for therapists (specializing in trauma and post traumatic stress disorder). Schwartz explains, “The seasons in our natural world offer many rich metaphors for healing. These seasons exist around you and within you. […] Each stage of growth has its own timing. Recognizing these rhythms and cycles can help you orient to the tasks of growth and change.” (Schwartz, 2020) In summary, Schwartz explains that spring invites us to plant new seeds and embrace growth while summer provides opportunity for growth and full, unhindered bloom. Autumn is an invitation to let go and release that which no longer serves us by pruning or reflecting on the wild growth of summer. Winter, she says, asks us to embrace darkness by connecting internally with stillness and quiet. I would add that during winter there is time for rest and planning for spring growth – gathering resources and education to support our plan.
My own life seems to follow the physical seasons of the world pretty closely, I notice. Sometimes there are major life events that occur over years of time and the length of those seasons will not coincide with nature. In addition, I usually am working through multiple seasons at the same time for different areas of life. I may be in a season of spring growth in a career while a season of winter within marriage. Or I may be in a season of fall with housekeeping and summer with creativity. The beauty of the seasonal model of growth is the embracing and understanding of all things and the timing of them. Understanding the seasons makes the trials and choices we have no less difficult, but understanding the cycle and normalcy of such hardships certainly takes the edge off. We are not isolated and alone, dealing with things all on our own. Instead, we are part of the natural world and larger world around us cycling through in the timing and way that God guides us.
I’ve recently read another model for growth that I enjoyed titled, The Journey Blueprint: Following the Hero’s Path to Take Control of Your Life’s Story. (Bouche, 2018) This served as a wonderful storytelling and personal tool, one that I recommend learning about. Not only was it a fun read, pulling from pop culture and referencing a lot of the familiar stories and characters we have learned to love, but Bouche breaks things down quickly and concisely for us. It fits in well and honors the christian beliefs we share about God’s existence and omnipotence within our lives. The basic idea of this model is that for every hero, there is a journey he/she must follow. There is a moment of which they receive a call and must choose to cross the threshold into the unknown. They must train and have mentors and helpers along the way. They must reach a point of choosing the impossible. It is quite lovely to see the basic plot line of all good stories exposed and simplified in a way that can apply to our own lives. After all, God chose us with calls and impossible tasks too. The problem this has for me, however, is that it is such a complex and long model that I will not remember the many phases when my mind is already in a crisis trying to make sense of where I am and where I am going. The four seasons are simplistic. Nature will always have the central grounding of principles that I need to grasp and embrace circumstances.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”Holy Bible, Isaiah 43:18-21
It doesn’t matter what model we follow, or which metaphor we use, the truth is that we have been (as a world) coming out of a season of great growth and changes that have been pummeled upon us as a result of Covid-19. We are told that the virus is not over and that a second wave may be imminent. It is now October and we have been growing under the seeds planted by Covid-19 in January, regardless of what that growth looks like. For some, it is growth under unemployment or quarantine; for others it has been growth in empathy and consideration to respect the beliefs and boundaries of others. Some have been forced to close businesses and grow under the hardship and questions of, What next? Some have stepped up and taken risks and done work they would not have thought possible of themselves. Still others have grown by taking one stance and then shifting to another on the endless to mask or unmask; to close or open; to fellowship or isolate debates that rage within and all around us. Regardless of the type of growth we each have been forced to experience this summer, we are now moving into autumn and a new season.
“…Under the hot summer sun, everything grows […]. Although weeds are not inherently bad, you may not want them in your garden. Given this, it is wise to choose carefully where you place your energy so that you grow the thoughts […] and actions that support your true self.” (Schwartz, 2020)
We’ve grown in many ways over this summer, and so have our weeds. It is time to look at and remember our true self, the (God’s) call on our lives at this point in time, and align ourselves where we need to. Is it time to let go of something that is preventing you from growing even more? Is it time to prune back beliefs or behaviors that may have helped you survive at one point in life (or even recently through these times of Covid-19), but that are no longer supporting you?
Are you living inside of fear or doubting your self-worth? Do you need to take a hard look at how you define success and reframe your perfectionism? It may be time to let go of these things which keep us small, keep us in fear. As the leaves leave the safety of the trees and the dormancy of rest and planning approach us, let’s embrace the season that we are in.
A simple search reveals that God uses the instructions “fear not” 365 times in the bible. So don’t be afraid to let leaves fall, to weed your gardens, to prune your vines. Fall is here and it is time to slow down and take in the smell of cider, taste of pumpkin, chill of the breeze, and sound of the owls hooting in the woods. It is ok to lighten the burden of the past season from your shoulders and prepare yourself for rest. Let go of those things that are no longer serving you and allow yourself to move into a new phase and approach.
Arielle Schwartz, Seasons and Cycles, in The post-traumatic growth guidebook: practical mind-body tools to heal trauma, foster resilience and awaken your potential 12–13 (2020).
Holy Bible, Zondervan (2011).
Julie M. Bouche, The Journey Blueprint: Following the Hero’s Path to Take Control of Your Life’s Story (2018).