There are seasons in our spiritual life just like seasons in the year. Summer is the season of growth. It might be ironic how many of us are not growing spiritually. Read my thoughts in this week’s edition of “Isn’t That Ironic?”.
It’s summer in the northern hemisphere and everyone is enjoying the warm weather activities. Here on the Canadian prairies, it took quite a while for real summer to arrive. We had an unusually wet and cool spring that dribbled through most of July. Only now are we finally enjoying what we think of as summer weather. I am always amazed when folks here in Northern Alberta complain about the weather being too hot—on both of those days!
But my post this week is not really about the weather, but about the analogy to our spiritual life. There are seasons to our spiritual growth just like the seasons in Nature—or at least similar.
Most of us love summer. We think of summer as a time for vacations, relaxing at the beach, fishing, swimming, and all the outdoor activities we love. But if we think about it more from the standpoint of nature, summer is a time of growth, of work, of development, of building. Our spiritual “summer” is also a time of spiritual growth, of learning new ideas about the nature of reality, of meeting challenges to love, peace, joy, compassion, etc. Perhaps this summer is a good example of finding many challenges to our ability to respond with love to all things, to maintain our sense of inner peace amid the craziness of this summer, to our ability to remain compassionate to everyone around us, especially those who view the current craziness differently than we do. This is the spiritual growth—the spiritual work—we are called to do this summer.
Are you in a “spiritual summer” right now? That would mean that you are growing, understanding things differently, learning about spiritual things, maybe undertaking new spiritual practices, changing your mind. It’s good to understand where we are, and to recognize whether or not we are pleased with that. If not, it’s time to change ourselves.
Then fall will come. Autumn is a time of harvest, of reaping rewards, of gathering the spoils, of seeing the consequences of our actions. I wonder what the harvest of Covid-19 will be—personally and globally? It will take years, maybe decades, for the consequences of Covid-19 to play out. The score of this game won’t be known as soon as October, when the harvest of the fields is in. In some ways, people have learned to work together better than we did before. In other ways, the actions and reactions of people are tearing apart families, communities, and the world. Governments have taken on draconian powers for themselves, often not based on science or rationality. Trillions of dollars of money have been created out of thin air just when the real production of goods and services has dropped like a rock. Propaganda and the apparatus of social control have bloomed like algae in a summer lake. Some people are oblivious to this, others are outraged by it. Where will it lead? What will be the consequences? The future is not in the hands of Fate or the Gods. It is in the hands of you and me. We make the future by our attitudes, words, and actions of today. Are we sowing the seeds of love, peace, compassion, tolerance, understanding, and freedom? Or are we sowing the seeds of intolerance, anger, fear, suspicion, violence, and the desire to control others? The harvest we reap depends upon the seeds we sow.
But our spiritual growth is not only related to the current infection worries. There are times in our lives when we enjoy the fruits of our past spiritual development—the improved relationships, the greater inner peace, the increased tolerance of people you formerly criticized. Are you in a spiritual autumn right now? That’s okay too.
Winter is a time of rest, of planning, of reflecting, of redirecting. When our spiritual winter comes, we will need to reflect on our personal, national, and global Covid-19 responses. There have been so many varied responses around the world. What worked? What didn’t? Which practices achieved their desired outcomes. Which did not? Was the collateral damage worth it?
Have you seen the Youtube video posted by Brad Hunstable, “My Son Died of Covid-19: But Not the Way You Think”? (watch it here) Brad’s 12-year-old son was a victim of Covid suicide. How many of these will there be? Is anybody keeping track of those numbers? Does anybody in authority care about them—the young who have been scared out of their minds by the constant fear-mongering, who haven’t yet developed the resiliency to handle this upside-down world? Not that one can measure the value of a life, but surely his death is more tragic than the death of a ninety-year-old with terminal cancer, diabetes, and Covid-19. Some honest reflection will be needed and some serious redirecting for the future—in each of us personally and nationally.
A personal “spiritual winter” is a time of rest and reflection. You’ve made great progress and growth in your spiritual development. You’ve enjoyed the rewards of that growth. Now it’s time to think about what comes next. Where do you go from here? We never “arrive” on this spiritual journey. The journey itself is eternal, just as our soul is eternal. There is always another step, another stage of growth. Now is the time to think about that and to prepare for it. If you are in a spiritual winter, where will you go next?
But eventually, spring will come again. Spring is a time of rebirth, of emergence, of planting, of starting anew. After reaping what we have sown, and reflecting on the outcomes, I hope we will agree on, as Lincoln so beautifully said, “a rebirth of freedom”. I hope all of us humans can find ways to work together better, to cooperate more, without compulsion and coercion. I hope we can be more tolerant of all our differences, not just skin color but also political ideas, ways of living, beliefs (even the really goofy ones). We need a rebirth of what made Western Civilization great, because our foundations are under attack by those who have no idea how we got here, those who lack the vision to see the consequences of their present destructive attitudes and behaviors.
Are you in a “spiritual spring”? That would mean you are just starting something new—a new church, a new spiritual direction, a new theology, a new commitment, a new spiritual project, a new revelation. Something new is always exciting. It makes your heart leap. Your “spiritual heart” leaps like a spritely fawn testing its legs in the fresh spring sunshine. If you are here, savor the thrill of this spiritual season.
Everyone has a favorite season. It’s a bit ironic, but how could we have a favorite season? We need all the seasons, in nature and in our spiritual life. Without winter, how could there really be summer? It’s hard for anything to really “be” without its opposite. There is no forte without piano, no largo without presto, and there is no growth without decay. All phases of life are important.
So, wherever you find yourself in the spiritual seasons of life—it's okay. Just recognize where you are, relish the moment, and realize you can’t stay there forever. The turning of the seasons is a beautiful and inexorable part of life—natural life and spiritual life.
God Bless You!
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