Thursday, March 20, 2014
Seasons of Suffering, or Why I Don't Buy Strawberries in March
I just looked down at my calendar and realized it's been over two weeks since I last posted here. Hope I didn't frighten anyone into thinking I'd gone into early labor! Still happily, roundly pregnant. With less than eight weeks to go until my due date, it's been nesting season around here. Appropriate for spring, I think.
Certain purchases have been made. Clothes have been pulled out of storage, washed, and folded away in the nursery drawer reserved for our coming arrival. I've been doing a general purging of excess stuff around the house, and Brian and I have been laying plans and getting ready for a freezer meal marathon! (I'm so blessed that my husband actually enjoys chopping onions--what would I do without him?)
So many things have been gathered and prepared... It's only that I've had trouble gathering my thoughts lately.
Have I ever mentioned how much I adore spring in my adopted home? If not, let me just take a moment to say: I love spring!! A season I never fully appreciated until moving to Seattle. Well, with spring blossoming all around me now in earnest, I've found my thoughts inclined toward the shifting of seasons.
So often in our modern, technological, light-speed age, we forget that there is a rhythm to the year and to our days. We hurry it, light it, slow it, force it or do whatever needs to be done to fit our days, weeks, months, and years into our own schedules rather than the other way around. But for most of human history, this was impossible, and I often find that there is great wisdom in honoring the natural rhythms God ordained rather than trying to squeeze the earth into my personal calendar of priorities.
Some things we cannot truly escape. Inclement weather, for example. The early fall of night, or a sun that refuses to set on the Fourth of July until the kids have gone nearly wild waiting for the fireworks to begin. Tomatoes do not ripen naturally in January, and even if we shell out the big bucks to buy the expensive hot house versions from the store, they fail to successfully mimic the taste of the "real deal" in July.
So, there are things we do not do in winter. I, for one, don't buy tomatoes. And, oh, how delicious they are when they finally come into season! Right now, I'm nearly ravenous for the strawberries that I know will begin to ripen in only a few short weeks more. I start to see the California shipments popping up in stores, but I'm being good and waiting...waiting for those locally grown juicy, red gems that only appear right before my son's birthday.
Lent is a season of patience. Of fasting before the feast so that the feast can be appreciated in its fullness and the fasting can do its work of soul-cleansing, of rest and renewal.
I think it is no coincidence that the Latin cognate of patience--"pati"--means "to suffer." We have to suffer a little if we want to enjoy the celebration. Like a seed bursting out of its shell, we need time in the dark and dank to do some hard work before we are ready for the sun. Only then can we truly grow.
I am in a particular season of life. In a few weeks, I will find myself the busy mother of four children ages six and under. Sometimes, I look around at the other women in my life, and it is hard. I see them with clean hands, purses that don't resemble circus tents, eyes that aren't puffy from lack of sleep. I see their free hours, the time they have for hobbies or friendships or careers, and I wonder if there is something wrong with me.
Am I weak because my son's poorly timed accident, resulting in yet another load of laundry, has the ability to completely throw off a day? Am I "less" because instead of sitting down to write this week, I spent my hours singing nursery rhymes, wiping sticky faces, and toddling after my little one in Wellies?
I have to tell myself, "No. No, there is nothing wrong with you." I have to say it continually, firmly, gently, over and over until I believe it.
These women I see: Most are in a different season. Their little ones are not so little anymore. They once spent their days like me, and they have earned this season in the sun. Some are rushing a little--they don't mind pushing the season and fitting it into their priorities, molding and sculpting it until it makes sense and space for their particular sphere of life. And that's all well.
But I'm still the seed in the ground. Often inside, sometimes in the dark, wondering if I will ever be more than a buried seed, which no one seems to see.
There is, you know, a value in wondering. There is value to be found in the insular living of a mother with young ones. There is value for them, and there is value for me, and when the season shifts, we will be stronger for having embraced this time and lived it to its fullest.
Someday, I may miss these hidden, harried, tiring, trying, beautiful baby days. I pray that now I find the patience to cherish what is good in them and the wisdom to endure the little sufferings such patience brings. When I find myself in another season, I don't want to feel that I rushed things--that I sold my life short for the price of an off-season strawberry.
I hope that when the seasons roll on, as they inevitably will, I will know that this one with all its challenges and joys was well spent.