Shifting of Seasons

I’m about to enter a new season. I know a lot of us are. Some of us are moving to college, saying goodbye to possibly the only home we’ve ever known. Others are heading back to high school or middle school, or back to our jobs, starting a new year with newfound struggles. Still others may be heading into or out of tense emotional seasons, or seasons of shifting communities and relationships. I’ve always felt like this time of year specifically is a time of a lot of changing seasons. So, in this final blog post before I enter a completely new time in my life, I wanted to write about the importance of seasons.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says:

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Virginia Beach is comfortable to me. It always has been, it’s where my family and my best friends are, it’s where I know my way around, it’s where I grew up; it’s home. But if I’ve been in a season of living at home, that season is coming to a close. And something the Lord’s been teaching my friends and I lately is that we need to keep our hands open throughout change, being okay with not being in control. I can’t hold on to home forever, and like Ecclesiastes says, there is a time for everything. I have to keep a loose grip on the things I’m comfortable with, because they’re starting to shift. I bet for a lot of you, you’re going through the same.

Josh Garrels has a song about seasons changing. It’s called Rejoice & Lament, and it goes like this:

Learn this lesson well, my friend
There’s a time to rejoice and lament
Every season will find an end
All will fade and be made new again

There’s a lot of truth there; season change and we need to be alright with that. But seasons are not permanent, like Josh says, every season will find an end, and all will be made new again.

In another song, called Season of Rain, he says:

Praise the Lord, when it’s all gone wrong
Everything fades but our love shines on
Praise the Lord, when your hope is gone
Everything fades but our love shines on

You might be in a season of hardship, or you might just be entering a season of newness. But something that’s crucial to remember is that God is in control of these seasons, and He who knows what’s best for us uses seasons to build our faith. He uses seasons of hardship and pain to fortify our faiths, building it deeper and stronger, so we can come out of that season trusting the Lord more. Other times, He uses fruitful seasons to give us a glimpse of Heaven, encouraging us to push on in our journeys.

What we have to remember about seasons, although they can be used to bring good, they don’t define us. Just because our surroundings change, that doesn’t mean Christ’s heart changes. No matter what season we’re in, we’re still called to pursue and praise the Lord more and more, like that last song says. If we don’t do this, and let our circumstances define us, we negate the purpose of a season altogether. In the same way that my Dad’s cancer is helping us pursue Christ more, seasons are used to bring us all closer to Christ. Turn to God’s Word when you don’t know what to do, because when life is like a rushing river, and the water is rising fast, God’s Word is a steady rock that sits dry above the roar. And remember not to be overcome by a season. In seasons of hardship, God never calls us to do nothing. 1 Peter 4:19 says:

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

That verse is clear as day. Keep pursuing Christ and doing good no matter what you’re going through. To my friends starting college, hold home loosely in your hands, and don’t be dragged down by the newness and by missing what’s comfortable and known. Push hard for Jesus in those times of confusion, in shifting communities, in shifting lives; Jesus remains the same and desires pursuit no matter what. Apathy isn’t excusable. Seek life in times of death, seek light when all you see is darkness.

So, here I am about to enter a wildly different time of life. I leave for South Africa in ten days from today. It’s kept me up late a few nights, and my heart is full of a lot of emotions. This blog has been a joy to write in for the past few months, and I’m not sure what it’ll look like while I’m in Africa, but my intention is to post more regularly, probably once a week, and to write stories and share pictures from the villages I’ll be staying in. Stay tuned for this next season, and I’d appreciate prayers throughout this major shift of life.

Don’t stop fighting for the Lord no matter what you’re going through.

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Spray-painting Jesus

When my Dad was my age, he and his buddy John wanted to do something reckless late one night. But my Dad and his friend were also passionate for Christ and spreading the gospel- constantly looking for ways to live like Jesus and tell more people about Him. However, teenage kids are gifted in the area of rebelliousness, even if they want to live like Christ. My Dad and his buddy decided to take the best of both of these passions, so they grabbed a can of spray paint, quietly snuck of their houses, and discreetly rushed to a big intersection nearby. During the day these streets were packed with cars and bustling with traffic, but in the stillness of the night, it was just the two of them there. They crept out into the middle of the road, pulled out the can of spray-paint, shook it up, and spray-painted the name “JESUS” in huge letters across the black pavement.

After I heard this story from my Dad a few times, it got me thinking: what if sometimes, instead of actually living like Jesus, we just spray-paint his name somewhere and leave for good? I think a lot of times instead of loving people well and investing in them, instead of speaking truth into people’s lives,  and instead of really showing grace and kindness, we just do a name-drop of Jesus’s name and tell people we’re Christians, and then do nothing about it.  My Dad and I have driven over that road a few times since then, and the thing about spray-paint is, it’s not permanent. Going no further than telling someone you’re a Christian, or when two Christians are friends but don’t talk about Christ, or believing in God but not living like it, is worthless.

1 Corinthians 5:20-21 says:

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Ambassadors is a heavy title to carry. That means we should expect all of our words and actions to be held to the highest standards by the world.

I leave for South Africa in a little less than a month. I’ve been learning a whole lot lately about what it looks like when I don’t just spray-paint Jesus’s name places, but I let that paint cover all of who I am and really start to live like it, and really bean ambassador. It’s really scary to let God into every crack and crevice of your heart. Honestly, I struggle a lot to do that, even though I feel like I am; but a lot of times I don’t. I’ve also been learning a lot lately about what real community looks like when it’s centered around Christ. My friends and I have decided to paint our conversations in ways that glorify Christ and point to Him, in ways that make us vulnerable with each other, in ways where we can be completely truthful, and in ways where we can know one another’s hearts fully. This has all been preparation for my trip and for the rest of my life, and I think we should all try figuring out how to let Jesus define all of us instead of just some parts of us.

Another thing I’ve been learning in this time of preparation is that I can’t just spray-paint love onto my friends. It takes real actions and sacrifice, it takes being uncomfortable, and it takes vulnerability to love a friend well, something I’m definitely still working at. John 13:15 says:

There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for their friends.

A memory stands out to me about a person who grasped the meaning of sacrifice to show how much he cared about me; that person is a teacher who taught me back in middle school.

So, I played ice hockey in middle school, and even though I wasn’t great at it, it was super fun. My sixth grade history teacher was named Mr. Waskiewicz, (had to pull out my yearbook to double check the spelling on that one- I’ll call him Mr. W from here on,) and Mr. W was a great teacher, one of the only ones from middle school that I remember well. But it isn’t because of his teaching or his personality that I remember him – it was because on one Monday afternoon I invited him to come to one of my 7:30pm hockey games, which was 45 minutes away from my house- and he came. He showed up, on a school night, on a night he could’ve spent with his wife at home. I didn’t grasp how great this act of kindness was for a few years, and I don’t know if he knew the Lord, but I would bet that he did. I do know that he cared about me and he showed it, and it meant the world to me.

Friendship takes work. Faith takes work. You can’t build a strong relationship with Christ or with your friends by just sitting around and talking about how to do it better. Or sitting on your couch typing about it. Love does stuff, and love is long-term. It doesn’t just spray paint words or phrases here and there and then run away. I’m learning that I can’t put a pause button on either of these things and expect them to remain good or unchanged. I also can’t just text or post about God or my friends and expect that to be enough. (Check out my good friend Vicky’s post on that specific topic here.)

So, what have I learned that I can take with me in the next part of my life? What can you take with you no matter what you’re going through next? Faith and relationships have no pause button, and they take long-term work. Spray-paint is temporary, and cheap name-drops of Christ don’t do anything; live like Christ.

Keep working at these things, and keep pushing on. It’s worth it.