It is October, which means my son has been working on his Christmas list for a few weeks already. He began the rough draft on April 12, when the buzz from the birthday cake wore off and he realized he still didn’t own a BB gun or a boa constrictor.
“Jonathan,” I said to him when he presented me with his working list, “it’s only October. There are pumpkins and leaf piles to enjoy, and you’re thinking about Christmas! Don’t rush the season.”
But at eight years old, it’s hard to be happy with pumpkins when Christmas is just around the corner. In fact, it’s hard to be eight when it would be much neater to be ten. It’s hard to be content with riding bikes and shooting Nerf guns when it would be so much more awesome to drive a car and shoot a rifle.
It is in our nature to be discontent with where we are, and ever to wander ahead of where we should be. In our striving to be somewhere we are not, we trade the beauty of the moment for a restless kind of rushing toward a place that may very well come, soon enough.
I have made the same mistake in my journey as a mother, more times than I care to admit. It seemed I was always pressing hard toward the next stage. I longed for my newborn to sleep through the night, for my six-month-old to sit up on her own, for my one-year-old to feed himself. I longed for my husband to have a stable job and or our income to be sufficient for our needs. I longed for a home I could call mine, and for the freedom that came with having older children.
I wish someone had told me, Don’t rush the season.
Maybe then I wouldn’t have struggled to potty-train a child who seemed to be ready, but wasn’t. I would not have attempted to take newborn twins on a family vacation. I would not have missed the blessings in the lean times or refused to grow in the places where God had so obviously placed me. I would not have been jealous of a season that had not yet come.
Every season has a beauty and a difficulty all its own. It is not always easy to walk through a valley of longing or grief. Most of us do not relish the uncertain times when jobs are lost or children are ill. We might struggle against the endless afternoons when our children are small and not easily occupied and it seems like we are wasting ourselves on the mundane tasks of changing diapers and sweeping up Cheerios.
But even the difficult seasons serve a purpose. When my husband and I were in seminary, we were dead broke. It was Christmas, and the only presents I could afford were those from a little shop on campus where students could give away unwanted items for other students to take. I had found some free toys and books for our daughter and wrapped them up. Even though she was not old enough to care, it grieved my heart that I could not give her a real gift. I worried about how we were going to pay our rent and felt guilty every time I bought groceries.
One day, when I was feeling particularly pouty because I had to take an extra cleaning job in order to make ends meet, we came home to find an envelope stuffed under our apartment door. It contained $200 in cash. Tears of gratitude and shame filled my eyes. I knew this was a season of growth, but I had been too busy complaining to be concerned about growth. I had been too busy longing for what we did not yet have to realize that we had something now that we would never have again.
At no other season in my life could $200 mean so much to me. At no other season in my life could I learn humility and gratitude from having to give used gifts as presents. At no other season in my life could I have nothing and everything all at once.
If I had gotten my way, I would have missed it. If I had gotten my way, I would have pushed passed the struggle in my desire to get to the easier years to come. That envelope was like the voice of God shouting at me, Don’t rush the season.
Our family has come to another season of uncertainty. We do not know where the path will lead. After December 15th, when my husband’s military orders end, we will be without full-time employment. It is scary, to be sure, but I have found a certain rest and contentment in this period of waiting and trusting. I am not always patient. Sometimes, I worry and long for answers.
But by God’s grace, I have also been able to see the beauty in this season. This is the hard place that lets us see the hand of God. This is the place where doors open, not because I pushed, but because He turned the handle. When it is over, I will be thankful. But for now, I am appreciating the purpose and significance of this time.
This time, I am not rushing the season.
“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear 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 throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace…He has made everything appropriate in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11a