When I was seventeen years old, I wrote one of my final high school papers on agricultural analogies in a specific classical work. While I thought I was just writing to cater to my rhetoric teacher, I am amazed to see those metaphors, rich with meaning, now incredibly important in my life.

I have been learning a lot about seasons lately. One of my favorite speakers, Rob Bell, recently said something on his podcast that riveted me. Our society used to be deeply agriculturally based. Life was in the soil and communities were incredibly connected to the seasons - the planting, rain, growth, droughts, and harvest. Those seasons meant life and death; those seasons determined their future; those seasons were expected to take a while. When the world moved towards mechanisms after the industrial revolution, a literal switch turned in our minds. We went from expecting things to take time to an expectation of an automatic result. And, not surprisingly, it was around this time that our perception of spirituality went from a gradual growth to an immediate conversion.

How incredibly has this mechanization of the world impacted the way we live? We have gone from knowing where our food comes from to buying strawberries in December. Our computers stall for just moments and we are heavily sighing and planning our next Apple purchase. And how has it impacted our faith? Books promising to fix our broken hearts in thirty days or give us the keys to happiness with one ten dollar purchase are prolific. Even some congregations promise immediate change when you come to the altar.

Now I believe God can change things in a moment, but I also believe that the hard work takes place after that. Slow, steady progress of saying yes to the light and no to the darkness - that is the work that transforms the heart.

Good things take time. Growth takes time. There are no shortcuts or miracle pills or silver bullets.

Seasons are important; they tell us that this is not forever, it is just right now. You might be in a season of death or sadness or trials, but the mere fact that it is a season means that an end is coming. And, it is in those seasons that we find out who we truly are. In a season of doubt, are you going to cower in fear or are you going to boldly ask the questions on your heart? In a season of grieving, are you going to allow yourself grief, or push it down and pretend you are fine? In a season of trials, will you take shortcuts or easy ways out, or will you stand firm in truth and integrity?

These darker seasons also make us appreciate the seasons of plenty. Can you know the bounty of harvest without knowing the lack of winter? Can you enjoy happiness and life and joy if you have not experienced sorrow, death, and trying circumstances? Can you appreciate freedom without knowing what it is like to be a slave to something? Can you appreciate simplicity unless you have known chaos?

All of my life I tried to avoid difficulties -  but I did not realize fullness of life until I got into the dirt and created something I am willing to bleed a little for. So, hear this call - it is in the dirt that strong roots are created. Do not go through life experiencing your days in only a shallow way - dig deep, deep into your soul until you find something worth not only living for, but also hurting for.

Seasons change - they are different lengths and hold different experiences. Whatever season you find yourself in, be encouraged that with every trial, joy, pain, or encouragement, you are finding a more full and beautiful way to be alive, growing deeper every day in the endless grace of it all.