My pastor delivered an interesting sermon this past Sunday (23 May 2021) entitled “Recognizing the Passing Seasons of Life.” The sermon pulled from the famous passage from Ecclesiastes 3, explaining that “To everything there is a season” and there is “a time for every purpose under heaven.”
I’ve always loved Ecclesiastes and its central insight that without God, everything is meaningless. The perpetual turning of the seasons—the cycle of birth, preparation, harvest, and death—is similarly meaningless—an endless cycle—without God.
Pastor Monday took a slightly different approach, one that is still very important: we so often abuse, misuse, or waste the time we have. The season of preparation—planning ahead, planting our seeds, tending to them, etc.—is frequently squandered; as a result, the harvest is lacking. We all want the harvest without the preparation, but a harvest that lacks preparation is no harvest at all—or a harvest of dust.
As a schoolteacher on the cusp of the glories of summer vacation, these words ring particularly strongly. How many summers have I squandered in indolence and sloth? Yes, I worked many summers, storing away pennies for some day. During those long days of painting classrooms and trimming weeds, I would yearn for time to focus on other projects—this blog, my music, etc.
But when The Age of The Virus hit, giving teachers more flexibility, if not necessarily more time, I squandered it. Rather than hustling during Summer 2020 putting together eBooks and the like, I had a good time. I am thankful for those good times, and for time with family—that was not a waste. But it turns out that “I don’t have enough time” was a flimsy excuse for a lack of productivity.
Pastor Monday, however, was speaking to deeper issues than spending too much time on summer break watching movies (although he also touched on that!). His main point was that these seasons are just that—around for a season, a short time—and God has designed our lives to follow certain patterns. Naturally, the individual details will vary from person to person, but the broad strokes the same.
In short, if we don’t follow the seasons as God intended, we miss out on what God has planned for us. That failure to live in God’s Will results in failure to enjoy the benefits of God’s Harvest.
Pastor Monday shared the anecdote of a young man heading off to college. His entire community was behind him, and his local employer even offered him higher wages upfront to help pay for college, with the understanding he would return with his degree. But the sirens’ song of partying with the other youngsters got the better of him, and he soon lost his chance to attend college.
Suddenly, where he enjoyed broad support for his education, he now found himself lacking that opportunity. He got married, but realized he would struggle to provide for his family with the wages from his menial job. He hoped to attend a community college to get his life back on track—a doable option, but one that he and his wife would have to support, all while raising a family, paying bills, etc. He still had an opportunity to improve his situation, but that opportunity came at a much heavier price, and with greater responsibilities, than his original path.
In essence, he reaped the harvest of choosing a good-time lifestyle over the more disciplined route. It didn’t cost him everything, but it limited his future options considerably, and made returning to his original path much more difficult.
At a certain point, the original path is no longer available. The gulf to reach it is too wide or impassable. The movie The Weather Man made a similar point: the disillusioned television meteorologist David Spritz comes to terms with the fact that, at his age and with his experience, he is destined to be the “weather man” of the title. Accepting that is a major turning point in the film—the happiest possible ending for the character.
Similarly, our impatience with God’s Timing can cause us to rush along the seasons. That, too, results in unintended, often catastrophic, consequences. Pastor Monday related the story of Abraham and Sarah, and how the couple tried to rush God’s Promise from Genesis 15. Instead of patiently trusting God for their promised child, Sarah urged Abraham to sleep with her handmaiden, resulting in the birth of Ishmael. When Sarah did finally conceive her son Isaac, jealously between Sarah and Hagar grew. Ultimately, Sarah blamed Abraham for the woes her scheme brought upon the family.
Long-term, the descendants of the exiled Ishmael—understood to be Arabs—continue to wage war against Isaac’s line, the Jews. That moment of impatience and impertinent led to an ethnic and religious conflict spanning millennia and civilizations.
The old saying “Carpe diem“—seize the day—is a trite cliché by now, but it’s true: we must live everyday to its fullest. As Pastor Monday soberly reminded us, we will one day give an account of our days, hours, and minutes to God. That’s a frightening prospect, but it should also serve as additional motivation to make the most of the seasons in which we find ourselves, and to seek out God’s Will for our lives.