We often refer to the seasons of the year in relation to the seasons of life. We equate spring with youth, summer with being a young adult, autumn with our mature years and winter as the elder years of our lives. I would like to suggest a different sequence of seasons, related to our spiritual journey.
We are born into spiritual autumn.
The autumn of the year is a wonderful time of cool nights and the transition from the green of summer to the bright colors of fall. But as we know, those bright colors signal a time of death. The trees lose their leaves. The summer flowers and plants die off. The grass goes dormant. The hours of daylight get shorter and the temperature grows colder. Although the autumn is a wonderful time to be outside, the darkness descends earlier each day, and the warmth of summer evaporates.
We begin life spiritually, not in spring, but in autumn. We are born into this world in a time of innocence. But because of sin in our world, our innocence is quickly tainted. For a while we enjoy the latent blessings of God’s grace. Those blessings begin to fade as we experience the effects of sin. At first, sin seems glorious, full of color and promise. But, just like the autumn leaves, sin’s color soon fades. It leaves behind the dry remains of unfulfilled promises.
We descend into spiritual winter.
Winter is characterized by darkness, cold and death. Nothing grows in the winter. When the first hard frost comes, the last plants of autumn succumb. Snow can be beautiful, but it is sterile. It covers the ground with its thick blanket, making the ground hard. As we are well aware of in this part of the world, the temperatures steadily drop. The hours of daylight decrease and we descend into a dark, cold world. Many people suffer greatly during the winter.
The natural progression in our spiritual life is to move from autumn to winter.
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 (NIV)
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. Ephesians 2:1-3 (NIV)
Spiritual winter is a time when sin rules our lives. We have all lived here. We all have experienced the cold and darkness of sin. Although there is an illusion of beauty in sin, it is a sterile environment that only brings death. Many people live their whole lives in spiritual winter. They learn to make the most of it, like hardy Minnesotans who have learned to embrace winter sports. But they live their lives in spiritual darkness. It is like the line from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. It is always winter, but never Christmas.
When we meet Jesus, we ascend into spiritual spring.
Spring is an amazing time of the year. The days get longer and warmer. Gradually the snow melts and the ground thaws. Plants that have lain dormant in the ground spring to life. The color green begins to dominate our world. This is supplemented with an explosion of color as spring flowers multiply. Spring is a time of planting for the future. We sow seeds with the hope of a harvest in due time.
When Jesus comes into our lives, we enter the true spring of our lives.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light Ephesians 5:8
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (NIV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
Jesus shines his light into our very souls. He thaws our cold, hard hearts with the warmth of his love. When we enter spiritual spring, an amazing transformation begins to take place. The gifts, talents and passions that God placed in our being at birth begin to grow and blossom. We discover the true beauty of life, as we shed the oppression of sin. Instead of just making the best of life, we begin to live with purpose and direction. The image of God begins to shine through our lives. We plant seeds of goodness with the hope of a harvest in due time. As believers in Christ, spring is a time of exploration and discovery.
As we grow and mature in our faith we move into spiritual summer.
Summer is a glorious time of growth and productivity. The days are long, the temperature is hot and everything thrives. Summer is lush with life. But the ultimate goal of summer is the time of harvest. The seeds we plant in the spring bear fruit in the summer. Throughout the summer we must do the hard work of cultivating and weeding in order to guarantee a bountiful crop. Summer is also a time of delight and exploration. It is a time for vacations, picnics, walks in the woods, and evening campfires.
At some point in our journey, we transition from spring to summer. Our efforts become more and more focused. We grow in maturity, which makes us more productive in what we do. We begin to see the fruit of our labors. But the full glory of summer will not be revealed to us until we stand in Christ’s presence. One of the highlights of the summer is the Minnesota State Fair. It is there that the labors of the year are displayed and judged. Those who participate in the events of the fair look forward to receiving the affirmation that they have done well. One day we will bring the produce of our labors before our Father in heaven. We look forward to that day when God will say to us, well done, good and faithful servant.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:7-10 (NIV)