(This blog post forms part of our August 2018 Newsletter. The first part are some thoughts on life’s seasons, the second some feedback on our family. Enjoy.)
This week Inez and I have noticed the awakening of nature around us as the seasons shift from winter into spring. We’ve both commented that we’re ready for winter to end and summer to start. It has led me to reflect on the shifting seasons we experience in life and what purpose each of them serves. I wonder, are we wise to want to rush transitions towards what we believe will be more comfortable?
Often we focus our attention exclusively on the seemingly positive happenings in our lives. The exciting beginnings of relationships; or thoughtful gifts received from friends. These, and more, give us great reason to celebrate, and rightly so. On the other hand we lament seasons that bring with them hardship or sacrifice – experiences of endings or loss. We do our best to recoil from these experiences and attempt to recreate our reality in such a way as to eliminate them as far as possible. In effect, we term these seasons as ‘bad’ or as ‘suffering’ because we believe we know what is best or right for us.
Without wishing to provide a comprehensive apologetic for suffering, let me just state that all suffering is not bad. For example, CS Lewis, in his book ‘The problem of pain’, says that the pain of stiff muscles may simply tell us that we have just enjoyed a lovely long walk. It is a necessary and helpful part of life because it has within it the power to move us forward. It is most definitely the only time that we experience significant growth because it shatters our comfort zones and pushes us to embrace new realities. Anyone who has left a screaming toddler with a teacher at their first day of pre-school can attest to this process.
Is this easy? Of course not! It is a natural reaction to run from suffering – pain is often a good warning that protects us from harm. There are the two sides to this tension; and, I believe, this is a part of wisdom – to learn to discern the difference between the two.
In winter, nature that has been expending itself in productivity through summer, is allowed time to rest and recuperate. A similar cycle, for people, is reflected in the Mosaic Law in the Old Testament when Moses sets down the various patterns for work and rest for the Jews (Leviticus 23:3; 25). Not all suffering is to be fled from. Sometimes it is just our unwillingness or inability to embrace a certain season that causes us suffering. (You can read more about embracing necessary suffering in this blog post: “Put the axe down”)
Winter is not a punishment following summer, it is a natural part of the cycle of life-death-life, and growth and rest, inherent to the beauty of our lives and the life of this planet. I see in Jesus’ acceptance of the cross His understanding that some things that we might call suffering are just transitions that have a greater purpose if we will but embrace the hardship and trust the journey.
So, the Carter family are ready to emerge from winter into summer, but are grateful for a season of both rest and consolidation.
I have had some uninterrupted and productive time to consolidate my Honours studies in preparation for exams towards the end of the year. The Honours degree has been a real God-send and profoundly supported much of the counselling I’m engaged in. I have also been able to consume vast amounts of reading and teachings in the past two months. This has proved to be a valuable investment that for the support I offer pastors, has increased the richness of my sermons, and developed my counselling ability. I’ve also focused on writing course material for upcoming ministry opportunities, some of which are available on our blog. Inez has been preparing to launch the #PinkCup project, fundraising having been one of the first hurdles to tackle. She is also busy, as always, with her photography business.
Bella is almost four and a half now, and has continued to blossom into a confident and friendly young girl. She is enjoying her pre-school tremendously, in no small part due to her phenomenal teacher. We’re grateful for everyone who has prayed for her health during the winter period – it’s always a time during which she struggles, and thankfully she has come through far better than last winter.
Joshua (or Joshtopher as we call him) keeps growing – he is going to be SO tall – and demolishing his developmental milestones. He is such a happy little boy and fills our lives with so much laughter. He’s 20 months old now. Here’s a more recent pic of us all together in the park.
We also managed, through the incredible generosity of some wonderful supporters, to have some time off as a family just outside of Rustenburg – a true gift! It was special, though short, time together to connect deeper with each other. We know family is such an important foundation in life. We’re so grateful for the giving hearts that continue to sustain us through this adventure!
In conclusion, let me share this saying, which I stumbled across some years ago. It was originally appropriated from a journalist and then amended to communicate a wonderfully disruptive truth about God:
“The Holy Spirit was sent to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”
May it provide for you as much as it has for us, as we seek to fully embrace God’s will for our lives. Whether that be seasons of winter or summer, we trust in God’s unending love and His wisdom that makes beautiful things out of the dust.