What Season Is It Again?
I am writing these words on March 21, 2023. (It almost certainly isn’t March 21st when you’re reading this—but stick with me, I have a point.) Today is a Tuesday. Yesterday was the first day of spring—and an unseasonably cold one.
On the church calendar, we’re in the middle of Lent.
On the sports calendar, we’re one week into March Madness.
On the financial calendar, we’re a few weeks away from Tax Day.
On the Pappalardo family calendar, we’re in the middle of an unofficial season called Organized Sports at the YMCA.
Does any of that matter?
If you’re like me, your first impulse would be to say, “Not really.” Tuesdays come and go. Seasons come and go. And I’ve got way too many things to do today to worry about how my today fits into some bigger season. Deadlines matter. Seasons? Not so much.
We live in a world, too, that has done a lot of work to remove—or at least flatten—seasons. Jump back a couple centuries and it would be immediately apparent that seasons shape daily life. Without electricity, for instance, our days would literally grow and shrink in a regular rhythm, along with the sun—long days in the summer, long nights in the winter. Imagine: The sun sets around 5:30 PM, and the only light technology you’ve got on hand is a candle. Chances are you’d do what everyone else did at sundown: You’d go to sleep.
The foods you eat would change dramatically, too, from one season to the next. Imagine you’re in North Carolina, like me. In the spring, you’d have strawberries. In the summer, blueberries and tomatoes. In the fall, apples and squash and cauliflower. In the winter? Well … you’d have whatever fruits and vegetables you managed to put in cans earlier that year. Your menu would follow the rhythm of the soil.
But in 2023? None of that seems to matter. Blueberries are in my local Harris Teeter 12 months out of the year. Foods that would have seemed completely exotic even a generation ago (avocados!) are standard fare. And I honestly can’t tell you when most fruits and vegetables are in season. Case in point: I forced myself to write that previous paragraph without looking up the seasonality of various fruits and vegetables. It was really hard. I also got some details wrong—initially calling blueberries a spring fruit (they’re more summer here in NC) and labeling sweet potatoes as an autumn crop (apparently they’re year round).
A Parade of Urgent “Todays”
In many ways, I love the convenience of the 21st century. But it has done something strange to my sense of time. If it were only about blueberries, maybe it wouldn’t be a big deal. But we do this with much bigger areas of our lives. Sabbath used to be a key feature of the American working rhythm. It’s not anymore. We work during the day, on the weekends, in the evenings. We work in the office, in our living room, in our car, in our bedroom. Our phones are always on—which means we are always on. We’re never unplugged, never out of reach.
Never resting. Never looking around to say, “And what is God up to … now?”
The preacher of Ecclesiastes famously wrote, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: … a time to plant, and time to pluck up what is planted … a time to weep, and a time to laugh … a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”
That still sounds poetic and beautiful to us today, but it’s not wisdom that most of us live by. We live in an endless parade of urgent todays. But I believe God is inviting us into the gracious rhythm of his seasons.
I love how Eugene Peterson translates Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11: “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”
So how can we do it?
Mark the Days!
The good news is that seasons haven’t actually disappeared. Spring still turns to summer, which turns to fall. The months are all still there. They might be flattened into one gray mass, or wrenched into some other rhythm more designed for economic growth than real human beings (“Q4,” anyone?). But the seasons are still there. Our challenge is to see them, notice them. To mark them.
In a world of flattened out todays, I believe marking our days, weeks, and months—marking our seasons—matters much more than in days gone by.
Not that this should be particularly new for Christians. God’s people have always had important dates on the calendar. For the Old Testament people of God, it was Passover and Yom Kippur. For Christians, it’s Christmas—commemorating Jesus’ birth—and Easter—commemorating Jesus’ death and resurrection. (And yes, some of you are cool enough to know about the lesser known dates, too—Epiphany and Lent and Pentecost and whatnot).
Personally, I think Christians should know a thing or two about these traditional liturgical dates. But we don’t have to limit ourselves to the church calendar. All sorts of other meaningful moments are sitting in front of us, waiting to be noticed. The last day of 3rd grade. The first day at your new job. The last snowfall of the season. The first spring blossoms. The opening of the community pool. The start of “fire pit season.” The last mowing of the lawn in autumn. The last dinner with a friend before he moves.
Marking these moments is one way we can slow ourselves down, drawing us into “the unforced rhythms of grace.” When we make space to notice the seasons around us, we often find ourselves engaging in the moment God has given us.
Not every season is perfect and beautiful. Not every season seems significant. But the older I get—or maybe I should say, the older my kids get—the more I want to be present for all of them. To be 100% here for each moment, each subtle shift in our lives. There isn’t a magical trick to doing this. But slowing down, marking the seasons … it helps.