It’s that time again. Back-to-school season is here. I remember the mixed emotions of that when I was there. It was always sad to see a fun-filled summer come to an end, but buying school supplies and reconnecting with friends at school was terrific. Plus, fall had football and that made everything better. Life is never static—it is always changing. One season is always fading, and compelling us to move on.
In school, we consider one season ending and moving on primarily a good thing. Though we experience some grief and sense of loss, the overwhelming feeling is congratulatory. We consider ourselves and those in our lives to have graduated, or been promoted, to a new season of life. There are new challenges, of course, but they are accompanied by new joys, new opportunities, and new adventure. No one would be happy if a child stayed stuck in 6th grade forever, no matter how successful they were in 6th grade. We know life is supposed to be moving forward. We want to see our children have a steady progression from starting pre-school or kindergarten,going into middle school, becoming a high-schooler, perhaps going to college,and we desperately want them to eventually move into the working world. We know this is healthy and normal, and we would be brokenhearted and frustrated if it didn’t occur. If we didn’t see those milestones of growth, we would be doing everything we could and seeking help from every viable avenue to make a difference.
The same is true in all areas of life. Marriage has seasons. If we are unable to grow and change, moving into new areas of love and servanthood, changing together as challenges differ, our bodies and abilities change, and responsibilities vary, our marriages will at the least be lack luster. We may completely lose that relationship that once was more important than life.
Parenting has seasons, too. There are the early days when the children are so young they need our constant protection and care, and we make the decisions for them. As they grow and develop, it is vital that our relationship with them grows and changes as well. They become increasingly responsible for their own lives, and if we want to have successful relationships with them, our role changes from controller to influencer. Parents who are unable or unwilling to navigate this new style of relationship find themselves resented by their children, and often completely distant. If we handle it well, the season of their adulthood will eventually yield the dearest and most significant relationships we could imagine.
Our spiritual life has seasons, too. Paul tells us we are supposed to grow up! 1 Corinthians 3:12 records Paul’s message to his friends, citing a period of time when they were so immature spiritually, he had to feed them milk instead of meat. In other words, he had to give them spiritual baby food, because they could not digest or handle anything else. But it wasn’t supposed to stay that way. They were supposed to graduate to something tougher.
The writer to the Hebrews says, “You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God's Word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food” (Hebrews 5:12). There’s clearly a time spiritually when we should have moved beyond the “feed me, feed me!” stage, and are taking responsibility to feed ourselves. Patty is a wonderful cook, and she makes delicious meals for our family, generally several times a week. When our children were small, she did it three times a day. But now everyone who lives at our house are grown, mature adults with responsibilities. If anyone starves around our house, it is their own fault. The frig and pantry are well-stocked, and between the times she fixes us those incredible meals, everyone is responsible to feed themselves, and occasionally cook for the others as well.
That is true spiritually. As you become mature spiritually, you move into a new season of spiritual life. The times we get together as a family and share deep spiritual meat are wonderful. I LOVE our Sundays! But not every Sunday will be your favorite meal. It’s ridiculous to say, “I’m not getting fed.” Even the best Sunday cannot keep any of us growing. We are responsible to feed ourselves as we become mature adults in God’s family, and more and more allow ourselves to be challenged to greater growth in God, and to be more concerned about the spiritual children at the church who need fed. We need to graduate to a new season, where we are more concerned about feeding than being fed.
As we move into new seasons of life, developing a new rhythm and flow, God can help us experience great joy in our new opportunities. You may even discover what I have found: Every season of life feels like my favorite. I can’t remember a vacation where we didn’t come home declaring, “This was the best vacation ever!” As I think back to my childhood, it was terrific. My single days were memorable and blessed. The early days when it was just Patty and me were glorious. As each child was added, we wondered how life could possible get better, and preemptively grieved the thought that they would ever grow up. Now that our children are all young adults and we are preparing to add our first new child by way of marriage, I can’t imagine how life could be any better.
It’s that way for me in my life and work as a pastor, and in my spiritual life as well. It does me good to remember that God promised in the very beginning that life would always have seasons, and it would be good. “As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” Genesis 8:22
And it makes my heart beat faster to contemplate all that is ahead in a new season: “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19