Not too long ago, my daughter asked me, “What are the different seasons of life; what season starts the process and what does each one stand for?” Initially, I thought the answer to these questions was straightforward, but as I pondered them with her, I again realized that we experience little in life as a straight-line, clear-cut process. As seasons go, do our lives begin in spring at new birth and then follow a linear pattern until winter and death at old age? Do we have multiple sets of seasons in our lives or do we get just one? Do we experience some seasons more or less than others? How do we know what season of life we’re in at any given time? As the questions bombarded my mind, I couldn’t help but examine my own state of being in relation to the seasons of life. I’ve concluded that our lives are a series of seasons within seasons, each one ushering in a vast array of emotions, ranging from the heights of joy to the depths of desperation. From the onset of spring to the close of winter and everywhere in between, our life is a series of cycles.
When I think of the seasons of life, I frequently reflect on Pete Seegar’s song, There is a Season (Turn, Turn, Turn), and the timeless message it brings. All life begins inSpring, a season of Awakening – it’s a time to be born, a time to plant, a time to reap… Spring is a time of new beginnings, re-inventions, and rebirth. Whether starting a family or experiencing empty nest, beginning, ending, or changing careers, moving or relocating to another area, embarking on a new adventure or closing one out, in the midst of trials or emerging from them – you’re in a Season of Awakening. For example, I am currently in the midst of reinventing my entire career, moving from the academy into the business marketplace. Without question, the past few months have been a season of awakening for me. While we tend to think of Spring as something reserved for our youth, the truth is we’re reinvented over and over again throughout our lives. Spring is a time we plant seeds; it’s a time when making good choices is crucial as we’ll experience their impact in the summer ahead.
Summer offers us a season of Producing – it’s a time to build up, a time to laugh, a time to dance, a time to gather stones together, a time to embrace, a time to gain, a time to rend… Summer is a time of being open, alive, and energetic; life is in full bloom. Whether at the peak of your career or on the uphill climb, watching your children grow up and take shape, thriving physically, spiritually, financially, emotionally, Summer is a time we reap what we have sewn. It’s a time we discover our true value in life, our purpose for being. As a parent of three teenagers, I am definitely in a season of producing. As I observe their actions, I witness the fruits of my labor, some of which are mind-boggling and wonderful and some not so much. Of one thing I’m certain, much of their behavior is a direct consequence of my decisions in the spring season that came before. Of course, it is this reality that goes with me into the next season.
Fall ushers in a season of Questioning – it’s a time to break down, a time to cast away stones, a time to refrain from embracing, a time of love, a time of hate… Just as we see the leaves transform from green into gold, orange, and red and fall from the trees, Fall is a time of change and letting go. It’s a time to turn inward as we anticipate the darkness ahead. Life quiets down and we observe changes in the sky and in ourselves, noticing that which we need to release. In recent months, my 72-year old father has been in and out of the hospital a couple of times; a man who, when I was growing up, was never ill. Through this experience, I find myself in a season of Questioning as I ponder and reflect on what the future may bring.
Finally, Winter embarks upon us – a season of Reflecting – it’s a time to die, a time to weep, a time to mourn, a time to keep silence, a time of war, a time of peace… Winter is a time of stillness, hibernation, and transformation. It’s a time when the cycle of life (i.e., birth, life, death) is so clear as we reflect on the seeds beneath us awaiting regeneration. As I begin carving a new, entrepreneurial career path, I’m discovering many aspects of my personality in need of transformation. For instance, I need to work on time management, organization, and networking skills. In the midst of my new beginning or spring, I’ve encountered qualities that desperately need to go into hibernation, making regeneration a true possibility.
We all struggle with the knowledge that life is broken up into three segments – we’re born, we live, we die. As I grow older, I find myself reflecting on years past, questioning the choices I’ve made, the people I’ve influenced, the lifestyle I’ve chosen – the basic purpose and value of my life – wondering if I’ve done all I should, experienced all I could, and become the person I ought to be. Life is a series of springs, summers, falls, and winters – some longer than others, but all present at various points in our lives.
Regardless of the season we’re in, it’s important to savor each one, learning the lessons life intends at that moment in time. Author and amateur radio operator, Jeffrey Davis, reminds us of the fragility of life in his essay, A Thousand Marbles. Davis recounts a morning spent listening to Tom, a ham radio operator. Tom explains how the average person lives to be about 75 years old, the equivalent of 3,900 Saturdays in a lifetime (i.e., 75×52). To highlight the importance of a life well spent, Tom purchased 1,000 marbles (i.e., the number of Saturdays he had left to enjoy; 55×52 subtracted from 3900) and began removing one marble every Saturday. He said, “I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focus more on the important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.” As we continue on our journey through the seasons of life, we might want to be more purposeful regarding our awakening, producing, questioning, and reflecting activities. Based on the average, I have about 1,404 Saturdays left. How about you? Life happens by seasons – enjoy yours, one marble at a time.