“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing…” -Ecclesiastes 3:1-22
Seasons. Each season brings a different flavour and atmosphere to our life. Like each season of the year, each season of life holds positives and negatives. The beauty of the colours and smells of autumn also contain a chill and darkened evenings. Summer provides hot sun and luscious greenery, but mosquitoes are also a reality. We must choose what we will dwell on. How can one enjoy skating in the winter when all they can think about is swimming in the summer? Lately, I have been reflecting on the seasons of life that I’ve gone through and the way I’ve chosen to experience the season I’m in.
It’s been somewhat of a wild year. This past April, I finished a very busy first year of university. Like any full-time, first-year student, there is so much to juggle and constantly keep up with. Having homeschooled for my entire previous education, I found that I was continuously just trying to prove to myself that I could indeed succeed, pass exams, handle labs and attain the grades I wanted. For both the fall and winter semesters, I lived and breathed being productive. If you’ve ever been a full-time university student, you know what I mean. There’s always another assignment, lab report, exam and so on. Every available evening was spent studying until I sleepily packed lunch to take with me when I would wake early to bus to school in the morning. However, there was also a lot of positive and wonderful things that I experienced during this time. As the year went on I made close friends with whom I shared much laughter, tears, and inside jokes with. I navigated new and exciting relationships. I have many memories of being exhausted and uncontrollably laughing when I wasn’t supposed to during Wednesday night chemistry labs.
During that season of life, however, I spent a lot of time focusing on everything I didn’t like about being busy with school. I felt over-stimulated. I longed for the day of my last exam when I would finally be DONE with the studying and stress. I would repeatedly think, when I’m finally done this year and working a summer job, then I’ll truly be able to enjoy life. When I can finally spend my evenings the way I’d like to, I’ll feel balanced again. When I no longer have the stress of assignments, life will be much brighter and hopeful.
And now I’m here. I’m done exams, I’m working at my two part-time summer jobs, and I get to decide what to do with my evenings. Guess what? Even though I have enjoyed the freedom and joy of feeling less pressured, I’ve often had moments of experiencing boredom and a lack of meaning. I have been feeling somewhat lonely and empty even though I get to see my friends often. The amount of free time that I have actually scares me a little. I’ve been trying to fill my extra hours with activities I enjoy such as gardening, playing guitar and reading. But I still feel a bleak sense of aloneness. Instead of taking advantage of the rest and recuperation this season brings, I focus on the parts I don’t like. I’ve again caught myself thinking about future times that will finally “make me happy”. Once my sister has her baby and I get to be an auntie I’ll feel fulfilled. Once the summer days are warm enough to go to the beach, I’ll feel joyful. I’ve even caught myself looking forward to my second year of university.
All this being said, the Holy Spirit gently reminds me about the beauty of living in the present moment. God is with us in the now. If we spend each season of life looking forward to the next season of life, we completely miss out on the opportunity to embrace the gift of the moment, the beauty of now. When we choose to acknowledge the struggles of the seasons we’re in but embrace the joys, we can become aware of the signs of God’s presence that are only visible to one who is conscious of the present. Here are three strategies that I personally find helpful to living in the present:
Everyday, find at least three things that you are truly grateful to God for in this time of your life. This sounds quite cliché, but honestly, do it. Write them down or thank God for them out loud.
When you catch yourself thinking ahead about a time that you look forward to, acknowledge the thought but place it in God’s hands. Remind yourself to focus on what you’re experiencing right now.
If you’re really struggling with the season of life you’re in, tell God. Tell him all the things you don’t like about it (he can take it!). But then thank him for what he’s doing in the situation, even if you don’t know what that is. Thank him for the good he’s going to make of the struggle.
Maybe you’re in a season that’s bringing you a lot of joy. Maybe life sucks for you right now. Whatever the case may be, embrace it, and thank him. And keep in mind that seasons do change.