These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16 ESV)
I grew up wrapped in the dazzling seasons of New England. After I married, and moved to Florida, the novelty of beaches and heat quickly dissipated, and a tiny seed of sorrow was born. It festered every single September for the next twenty-five years.
New England summers typically hold only a couple of unbearably humid weeks. Older folks sip sun tea, no sugar only lemon please, fanning themselves and remembering when. The New England coastlines are summertime magnificent: jagged and historic with cold blue waves and long jetties and beaches meant for walking and scavenging for sea glass and shells.
Fall arrives: Oh September, a beauty! The air holds promise; leaves blushing crimson, fire orange, and gold. This is the season I treasured most, inhaling deeply, deeply. As a child I pondered the beauty; savoring and feeling God’s embrace through every outdoor adventure.
As the autumn leaves begin to crisp, winter coats are plucked from cedar chests and LL Bean boots are readied by the door. Winter is necessary death; cold and still and stunning. A benediction to former seasons. Snowfalls hush then muffle, fireplaces roar and cheeks pinken with hot drinks and extra plaid blankets. There is outdoor play, but more so puzzles, movies and books.
And spring. The apple blossoms and lilacs sing white and purple, their scent pungent and life-giving. The entire area awakens, and winter apparel is shelved for windbreakers, thin sweaters, and raincoats.
This is the exquisite warp and woof of abiding in four seasons.
What I warred against for a quarter of a century, was the aching to return to a life of seasons versus choosing to nurture contentment precisely where God had placed me. Truthfully, I did not feel well in the blazing and stifling humidity of Florida. And our hottest month was September, the time that ushered in the crisp fall of my childhood. I struggled with grumpiness and longing to once again inhabit a space where seasons were definitive. I was aware of my edginess; a spirit that did not give praise to my Creator. And when I was able to tame my tongue, I was unsuccessful in taming my irritated heart.
What does this reveal about me? While I believe that place matters, and that God designed us with preferences, how does this mesh with living a crucified life? The Hall of Faith chapter found in Hebrews 11, pays honor to those who obeyed and followed the Lord, not for this earthly life and homeland, but for heaven. God is pleased with their heavenly gaze, so much so in fact, that He is preparing a city for them.
As I have lived conflictedly, trying to untangle the strings of my life, I vacillate. I have followed my husband, our family’s spiritual leader, through many physical and difficult moves, supporting him fully. I have felt like Abraham, living a ministry of leaving without knowing where we are going. But even in this, I ached for what I did not have and inwardly moaned.
And now, pecking away at my computer, I know I can write winsomely about the flush of fall, the cold snap of a winter’s day, the chirping of spring, and the Cape Cod lobster rolls of summer. It does not change the fact that I bowed my affections to seasons, worshipping the creation rather than the Creator. If I had bent low to God, I would have been content in Him, regardless of place.
We recently moved to Virginia, and the state and seasons are stunning. Interestingly enough, months before my husband applied for this pastorate, I wrestled with God. One day, in an act of surrender, with tears of relief, I told Jon that I would willingly follow him to any pastorate of God’s leading. Even if that meant staying in Florida. Forever. A weight flew off of me, even as I knew that we would remain seasonless. I had wrestled and laid down my will. Within several months, Jon was hired in Virginia.
Place matters; just not as much as my heart’s posture. A Chinese proverb says: The strongest memory is weaker than the palest ink. I write to remember.