Seasons of the Soul

PATSY KUIPERS|GUEST

Editor’s Note: The following is an adapted excerpt from Patsy Kuiper’s new book, Be Still: Quiet Moments with God in my Garden.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2


Nature’s Seasons

I once attended a presentation where the speaker began with, “Summer, fall, and winter are seasons – spring  is a miracle.” I’ve thought about her comment every spring since. Early warm spells begin to nudge plants from their slumber in January here in the South. Witchhazel, Lenten roses, and paperbush start the floral parade that continues for multiple weeks as plants take turns in the spotlight. Trees, flowers, baby birds – all embody the joyful message of rebirth, which in turn stimulates hope and rejuvenation in us.

But spring gives way to summer, and tender ephemerals[1] disappear for another year as heat-loving specimens flourish.  Summer annuals and perennials bloom, then set and disperse their seeds before beginning their decline. Fall arrives. Crops are ripe for harvest, the fruit of spring planting and summer tending. Soon daylight hours decrease, as does the temperature, and autumnal leaves create a riotous display of color – one last hurrah before they let go and blanket the ground for the winter.

Ah, winter. Based on my observations, I’ve concluded it is the most misunderstood, under-appreciated season, at least from a gardening standpoint. Those unfamiliar with the ways of plants scan the leafless, apparently lifeless landscape and pronounce, “everything’s dead.” I used to think that too, but my horticulture studies dissuaded me from that notion. For instance, some seeds won’t germinate without scarification,[2] and some bulbs won’t bloom without adequate chill time. Many plants depend on the decreased daylight and increased darkness that accompany winter to flower at the appropriate time.

My newfound knowledge has given me a different perspective. Now when I contemplate winter vistas, I prefer to think the plants are resting while building reserves for the next season of fruitfulness.

Seasons of the Soul

Contemplating the bedraggled state of my summer annuals one early-September day reminded me of a book I’d been reading. Instead of equating the aging process with seasons as is often done, author Mark Buchanan explores what he’s deemed “cycles in our hearts.” In Spiritual Rhythm, Being with Jesus Every Season of Your Soul, he describes different periods in our lives in terms of the four seasons, each with its own set of challenges and blessings, each necessary if we’re to bear fruit.

The friends who gave me the book thought the analogy would resonate with me because of my love of gardening. And so it does. Year after year, I’ve observed and anticipated the changes, as one season follows another, each dependent on the ones that precede.

Sometimes I think it would be nice to live in a constant state of springtime, emotionally and spiritually speaking – productive, energetic, surrounded by resurgent, hope-producing, joy-filled circumstances. But like the plants, God knows we need all the seasons to produce abundant fruit and  become more like Jesus.

We need to slow down and be still, to rest and draw near to God in all seasons, but we’re most likely to do so during the winters of our souls – times of loss and suffering. For it’s then we realize our utter reliance upon God, a dependence present every moment, but most evident when we come to the end of our supposed self-sufficiency.

My own winters have convinced me of the veracity of Elisabeth Elliot’s declaration, “The deepest things that I have learned in my own life have come from the deepest suffering. And out of the deepest waters and the hottest fires have come the deepest things that I know about God.”[3]

Yet, like the trees and flowers, I’ve emerged able to bear more fruit, because I know my Father and His ways more intimately (Romans 5:3-5). Signs of life return, as our winter gives way to another cycle of spring planting, summer tending, fall harvesting, a cycle that will continue in us and the natural world until our final winter. Our bodies will rest in the ground, waiting for reunion with our souls when we’re called Home, glorified, and welcomed into the joy of eternal spring (1 Thessalonians 4:13-16).

Dear Lord, just as we savor the changing of the seasons in the natural world, please help us to embrace the seasons of our souls, knowing that You have a purpose and plan for each as the cycles of our lives continue until Jesus’ return.

 

 

[1] Ephemeral plants are generally found in deciduous woods. They take advantage of sunlight available in early spring before the leaves return to the trees. They bloom and decline in a relatively short period of time, lasting from a few days (e.g. trout lilies) to a few weeks (e.g. trilliums).

[2] Scarification involves weakening, opening, or otherwise altering the coat of a seed to encourage germination.

[3] Elisabeth Elliot, “Suffering is Never for Nothing”, lecture series, 1989.

About the Author:

Patsy Kuipers

Patsy often refers to herself as “Gardening Grammie,” a title that encompasses two of her favorite pastimes. Widowed at age 38, she was blessed to be gainfully employed all the years she spent raising two daughters on her own. When her 30-year corporate career ended, she returned to school to study horticulture, a passion born of caring for the garden her husband left as part of his legacy. Patsy started her blog, Back 2 the Garden (patsykuipers.com), to tell others of God’s great faithfulness and recently compiled a number of her stories into a book, Be Still, Quiet Moments With God in My Garden. She is a member of Grace Covenant Church in Dallas, GA, where she serves on the Women’s Ministry Committee and leads women’s Bible studies. When Patsy isn’t writing or playing in the dirt, you’re likely to find her spending time with her beloved grandchildren or catching up with a friend over a cup of tea.

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