Seasons and Shepherds


I like the word “season” because we use it so liberally. Winter, summer, spring. The months before a baby can walk. A bout with depression. Angsty teenage years. The honeymoon phase. The wake of a divorce. We take our blurry-edge periods of time and call them seasons to give them shape and significance and succinctness.

We love to categorize things this way, to give a name to something otherwise undefined. And I get it – everything changes, and the passing of time is unruly and a little terrifying, so we want to put brackets around our experience. We want firm beginnings and ends. We want to feel like we can contain whatever we’re going through, so we call it a season to highlight its impermanence and wait for it to pass.

I do this constantly. In hard times, I am desperate to “season” my experience. I want to name it, tag it, feel power over it, even if just in rhetoric alone. “Oh, it’s just a tough season.” “I’ve been really struggling this season.” “That was a really dark season of my life.” It’s verbal punctuation.

I do it in good times, too. Engagement, for example. Weeks when I feel particularly close to God. The holidays, even. I denote them all as seasons, wrap them up in a neat little package, and feign order amidst the mess and chaos of life.

I don’t think this is inherently wrong. To every thing there is a season (turn, turn, turn). We are right to expect change. To remember that this too shall pass. I think it’s OK to bookend chunks of our lives as we live them, learn from them, and move forward.

The danger comes when we start writing off seasons while we’re still in them. Of which I am infinitely guilty. I’m quick to shade in the rest of the picture as if it’s already happened – to be so anxious for what’s to come, I skip the last two paragraphs and try to jump to the next chapter.

There are a lot of veins here we could follow: the value of living for today, the weariness of endless transition, the desperate human need to organize and make sense of every phase of our lives. These are all good, worthy topics that I’m sure have been and will be written about by people much smarter than me.

But what I’m most interested in is the part we shade in. The weeks or months we try to skip to get to the next phase. Those last few leaves that finally fall and concede to the impending winter.

I’m getting married in 108 days (I mean, if I had to guess) and I feel an endless tug to jump right past all of them and just get to my wedding day. But I know that isn’t right. I know that’s not what God has for me, but it’s unsettling. I want to be married. I’m uncomfortable in this weird in between.

I think of Advent. A season of hope for what is next, of anticipation, of excitement for the coming of our King. A season in which we remember the years of silence, the gap between Old Testament and New, the seemingly endless waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people.

And then it happens. Unto us a child is born. The angel calls to the shepherd. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus praise we.

And celebrating that child, that coming, that new and glorious morn is so good. In no way do I want to take away from that. But I also don’t want to ignore the night or weeks that led up to it. When that shepherd was just a shepherd and that stable was just a gross, dusty stable. I don’t want to miss the last moments of the waiting or that last few leaves to fall from the tree because they carry no less significance than what follows.

We hear it ad nauseam, but God’s timing truly is perfect and right and beautiful. He did not send his son one moment too late nor one second too soon. So to him, and in his infinite wisdom and love, the night before the manger, the shepherd’s dull, monotonous watch, had value and deep, eternal purpose. God didn’t just shade in the rest of the picture. He didn’t skip the last few paragraphs. He waited for the last leaf to fall and then broke open the world with a boundless mercy I can’t begin to understand.

So in these seasons of waiting, or of heartbreak, or of longing unfulfilled we can rest in knowing there is value in every hour or every week. There is purpose in every dull, monotonous watch. In all 107 days left of engagement or the indefinite number of weeks left of whatever season you find yourself in. So let’s not rush through it. Let’s let the shepherd just be a shepherd. How much more satisfied we would be if we just stood still and stopped racing towards to the next thing. If we sucked out every ounce of goodness in these last few paragraphs and watched the delicate dance of the last leaf falling.

God will end each season not a moment too late nor a second too soon. A thrill of hope. The weary world rejoices.

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