It always happens the same way here in the Northeast United States: September ushers in the push that begins with “Back to School” rush, creating a frenzy that terminates at the end of December with promises to do better next year. Adding to the frenzy are holidays like Thanksgiving and its commuting nightmare, Black Friday’s insanity, then Christmas with its marketing pressure to buy, buy, buy. After all is said and done, then comes New Years Eve with reflections of the past year and fresh vows for the next.
We do things rhythmically and in unspoken cycles. In the Spring, we plant crops. We work hard in the long days of summer, contemplating the impending winter. In the Fall, we harvest, then batten down the hatches for winter. At least that is how it is in the Northeast.
Though some seasons are imposed on us by the tempo of culture, there are some spiritual seasons that are imbedded into our creation: Plowing, Planting, Reaping, and Stripping.
In plowing, we do as God told Hosea, to "break up the fallow ground". That is the season where we search our hearts and, as the Psalmist prayed, “see if there be any wicked way within me”. In those plowing times, your heart may be broken into a million pieces. The furrows dug in our heart’s soil feel more like wounds, but they are preparing us for the planting season.
Then we "sow to ourselves righteousness". That’s the planting part. In the sowing season, we plant seeds that will eventually benefit us - "to ourselves". Plowing and sowing are hard work and just like real farming, requires perseverance. When you forgive, you are sowing to yourself. When you help someone in need, when you do the right thing, when you say no to temptation, you are sowing to yourself righteousness. Bear in mind that Jesus is the farmer. The righteousness we sow is not one that saves us, but one that shows we already belong to Him and “His seed abides in us”.
Reaping is the time of harvesting blessing. It is enjoying (hopefully) the good consequences of our choices. Blessing doesn't just come. You must harvest it (snatch it up) or It will remain there until you do. How do you harvest a blessing? By seeing it when your cynicism would see things otherwise. Sometimes a long season of plowing and planting can make us think that these seasons are who we are - but all seasons must eventually end and give rise to new ones.
The Stripping time. Like the eagle that sheds its feathers, drops its beak, and loses its claws, we to must go through seasons of molting where we are pared down to nothing and feel naked in the wilderness. This season is one where no matter how much you plow and plant, there is little or no harvest. It is a season where we must, like the eagle, learn to wait on the Lord until we renew our strength.
It is important to know the season you are in so that you will be on the same page with where God has you. Not knowing can lead to great discouragement and feelings of abandonment - But remember the promise:
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”