Seasons are a natural process. We see them in nature. Spring, summer, winter, fall. We've experienced them all. Every season is different and contains unique and specific processes all catered towards growth and fruitfulness.
I find this quite profound--that if in the natural, seasons are necessary for growth and fruitfulness, how much more is this true of our own lives? Because as we know, God leads us into seasons of faith as well--and the analogy between the seasons we experience in the natural and our growth in Christ is quite remarkable. His intention in each season of faith is to lead us into greater, sustainable growth for our lives.
The Imagery of Seasons
The analogies of gardens and plants mirrored against God-orchestrated growth are strikingly profound to my heart. It's what God has been using in the past months to help me understand my seasons of faith. Just like Jesus spoke to the disciples in parables, I feel I have been having these same moments with God, and it's opening up fresh revelations and perspectives. I think back to a time I was sitting in a garden this past fall during a discipleship school. One of my work duties was to help with whatever needed to be done in the garden, and so my jobs varied from picking weeds, preparing soil, to gathering a harvest to enjoy and feast on that week--veggies that had been growing over the months. That garden became sort of a living parable, me encountering the Holy Spirit as He taught me in the natural what God does in the spiritual gardens of our heart. It's changed forever how I see growth and process in my life, and it's changed how I view seasons of faith.
PLANTS NEED CARE
Recently, to help me grasp what He is doing in my life, God has been speaking to me about specific processes that happen as a plant grows. In doing some research on plant growth, I discovered that there are so many factors necessary to help a plant mature: proper soil, water, temperature, sunlight, shade, pruning, weeding... and probably much more than I am aware of. All factors are intentional and specific to the plant, even varying from plant to plant.
There's a Arabica coffee plant that is growing in the coffee shop I work at. In receiving the plant, the first step was to place it in nutrient rich soil. Collectively as a shop, we've been making sure it stays in the shade (what it needs) and gets adequate water. We've had it for about a month and half now, and it just recently has produced beautiful, green, waxy leaves. They are really quite striking to look at. I see that it takes time and intention to produce a healthy plant.
I realize, this is true of my life as well. It takes time and intention to cultivate a whole and healthy heart. Just like plant growth involves different processes, so does God orchestrate different processes in our hearts to foster growth--refinement, pruning, pulling up "weeds" (i.e: unhealthy belief systems/strongholds in our lives), planting seeds in prayer, new growth fostered in the place of intimacy. Jesus illustrates this idea in John 15:
I am the true vine (Jesus), and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that is will be even more fruitful... I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-2;5)
Fruitfulness. It’s Jesus' desire for our lives--fruit for us to enjoy and share with others. It is the byproduct of a life in Christ. We were meant and commissioned to be fruitful. But fruit doesn’t just happen. It doesn't come without process, and it doesn't come without abiding in Christ.
In the natural, good fruit comes with taking good care of the plant. It doesn't come without watering, weeding, pruning, even death to unhealthy growth. The same is true of our spiritual lives. God cares about the garden of our heart. Apart from Him, we can bear no fruit. Allowing the Gardener to do His work in us as we partner with Him will produce greater wholeness in our lives. This is His greatest desire--our wholeness and transformation. If God has you in a season of serious refining at the moment, rejoice! He is not punishing you. Pruning leads to greater fruitfulness. His desire is for our hearts to have healthy foundations so that healthy fruit can be produced. Wholeness equals sustainability. The more I journey with the Lord, the more I realize sustainability is His heart. God wants us to last. Christianity was never meant to be a quick sprint. Our journey is one from glory to glory. But I believe that even more than the fruit, He's after the transformation of our heart. Because fruit will naturally come as a result of intimacy with God, often without us even thinking about it! But He's always after our relationship first and foremost rather than our ministry. But really, fruit is more than ministry. It's the peace, joy, love, patience, and plethora of endless good things the Lord has designed us to live in--the abundant life in Him.
For many of us, we have seasons that we love, and seasons that we... well, we would prefer another. For a good while, I didn't like winter, and spring was...meh, just kind of there. But over the years, I've learned to embrace all four seasons, and now, I've come to really enjoy all of them for what they are, especially since I've had some time in geographic locations where all four seasons are distinct in their changes.
Every season has its purpose and completes a whole picture. Just like we must embrace when the seasons change in nature, we must also embrace the seasons in our lives. Because they will change--and it's our response in each that will determine how we experience them.
In midst of writing, I realized that there is not one season--winter, spring, summer, or fall--that doesn’t produce some sort of growth or fruit ready for harvest. How amazing is that? I see it as this: every season of our life is fruitful. It is filled with growth. Even while work is being done in us doesn’t mean we aren’t walking in fruitfulness. Both the season that feels bare and the season that is teeming with abounding opportunity are actually filled with much life. They each are working out a different purpose in us. Every season contains and produces, richness, wholeness, and beauty in our lives. Each step in the process of growth, each "yes" to His hand in our life, is just as beautiful as the fruit that is ultimately produced. And even so, is not growth also a form of fruitfulness? The journey is just as important.
But in all honesty, while there’s some seasons that feel incredible, there's some that feel really hard. Sometimes, the changes can feel quite drastic between each. How do we thrive in each? It’s taken me some time, but I’ve come to find that recognizing season shifts and seeking to understand God's heart in them broadens my perspective and helps me understand. Clarity. When I hear His heart on what He is doing, anything that could appear random to my human understanding fades as I catch His purposes.
I believe this is one of the great gifts we’ve been given--dialoguing with God, that we can ask Him questions, that we can hear His voice. Communication with Him brings clarity to life. And so, I've been learning to ask Him what season I am in and what He is doing on the whole, especially when I have those moments where things in life feel ambiguous. I find that when I hear His heartbeat, I am able to rest better in where God has me. I've always valued communication, and I realize that in my relationship with God, it's of the utmost importance. Learning to be comfortable asking Him questions, even the hard ones, will bring so much richness to our walk. It has to mine. He has never expected us to know it all or have all the answers, but sometimes, we put that pressure on ourselves masked as "spiritual maturity." It's ok to have questions and to not have it all figured out. This fosters teachability, which is a characteristic God desires for our hearts. Hurray for no pressure!
Each season we walk through is important and very necessary. Without change, there's no growth. Each unique season has a purpose that is serving the entire picture of our lives.
We Are Not All in the Same Season
It's true--we're not are not all in the same season, though at times, we may share seasons with others. God has each of us on a unique path, and sometimes, it can be very different from those around us. One important lesson I have been learning over and over again is to not compare my season to someone else's. Also, to even not compare seasons that previously happened in my own life. Seasons were meant to be lived out before the eyes of God, meaning, it's not about proving anything to anyone. (Side note: I am not talking about accountability. Accountability is a beautiful gift, and surrounding ourselves with people who we trust to speak into our lives is wisdom. It's part of the growth!)
Seasons will commence in the midst of community and relationships--in fact, they most likely will involve them, because God loves to use people to shape us. However, it is not a competition or gauge of how we're doing in life. There aren't "better" seasons than others...just different. In fact, it's a blessing that we all go through different seasons, as I often find that either the season I am walking through, someone else has been in, or the season someone now is walking through, I have been in. We can mutually encourage one another! I feel that a portion of the discontentment we may feel in certain seasons is because we are looking at those of other's around us and wondering why were are not in the same place. Where you are at now is where God desires you to be--and it's not more or less than those around you. This is my challenge to myself: "If you trust God, Jena, you can trust Him with the timeline of your life." When my heart truly grasps that God has my best interest in mind, it's a whole lot easier to rest in the season He has me in and to also encourage other's around me. :) He works in much different ways than we do. Let us not seek to rush or step outside of the season God has us in, but walk it out confidently.
Seasons. There is so much that could be said, so much to dive into. They are beautiful. They are not all easy, but I believe we can find contentment and joy in each as we look to Jesus and understand His heart. When we realize it is for our good and allow God to infuse an eternal perspective into our sight line, everything changes as we understand His heart for us is wholeness, fullness, transformation, and sustainability. May we be encouraged in our season and be empowered to encourage others.
Happy growing. :)
I write from the place of personal experience, observation, and reflection on who God is. As always, I encourage you to pray, search the Word, and seek Him on these topics.