The seasons are more apparent this time of year than at any other, mostly because the reminders are so overwhelming. Spring in Virginia must be wrestled from winter in a long struggle of give and take, then eases into summer like the embrace of two old friends. In either case, it’s difficult to know where one ends and the other begins.
But not so with the turning of summer to fall. There is a clear line between those two, a boundary of Stop and Go marked by stars so close the shine kisses your face and leaves so colorful they should come in boxes marked “Crayola.” Autumn stands alone. It neither lurks nor knocks, it bursts forth and announces its presence. “Here I am,” it says. “Time for something different.”
Though I’m always reluctant to let go of summer, the wiser part of me knows I must. That even perennial green and sun would in time become uncomfortable and drab. It’s a seldom-mentioned fact that we all need reminding of from time to time—there is such a thing as being cursed with too much good. That, I think, is why God made the seasons. To teach us that whatever we have in this world can be lost and then found right back if we just keep moving forward.
That sort of thinking about the world outside my window has come in handy with the world inside myself.
For the last seventeen years my life has been marred by short periods of mottled serenity followed by long periods of outright despair. Depression is like that, I think. It forces you to view happiness as an illusion rather than a possibility. It makes you fearful of reaching out to grab hold of joy for fear it will turn to vapor and seep through your fingers.
Those inner winters were borne by me alone. My depression was a weight hung from my soul and forced me to look down in shame rather than up in petition. Christians weren’t supposed to be sad. Their hearts were supposed to be filled with the light of God, not the darkness of living.
I’m sure a lot of people think the same—that a life with God should be that perennial green and sun. Which is why so many of us walk through our winters naked and cold trying to convince ourselves that the season hasn’t changed. That the breeze is still warm.
I think the biggest lie we tell ourselves is that we should always smile.
I will not worship a God who demands I shy away from half of living simply because it’s difficult. I would rather Him offer to walk with me through it. The world will wear on all of us from time to time. There is no avoiding it. That’s why I cast a wary eye upon any religion that says such things can be avoided. They can’t.
They can’t because there is a reason for our pain. Because it is an inevitable consequence of loving God that we feel. Because there is a beauty in our tears and a grace in our sadness.
The point isn’t to figure out a way to avoid our seasons, then. It’s to figure out a way to embrace them. To endure and continue. Because we must know sadness if we are to know joy, we must be lost in doubt in order to find faith, and it is only in our misery that true hope can be born.