When you look back on your life, do you see the patterns of growth and harvest? Do you see the seasons that are fruitful and the ones that still have something to offer even if they're bare? Are you quick to give up when things get hard, slow to let go when change demands it, or reverent of the times and seasons that God has ordained?
Solomon, known as the wisest man, states in Ecclesiastes, For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.
Sometimes this truth fits logically into my thought process while other times it has been a cliche way to move past something that has been difficult. Commenting to myself in avoidance of the wounds or anger, "well... there is a time for everything, so it must have been time for _____ to happen" as I let myself slide to the next things, irreverantly.
In the past year it has taken on a brand new luster. It is through my garden that I began to understand this reality in a very tangible way. God's grace started to prod me, "what does it really look like to attribute each thing in my life up to God and asking what is the season we are in?" I believe we would save ourselves much heartache by truly pressing into and offering each thing in our life up to the Lord to let him continue to nourish or let him take away each in its own time.
Seasons and rhythms are on purpose - it is strictly impossible for any type of plant to grow at the rate it does from April-August all year round. They need seasons of pruing and rest too.
I planted my very first garden in 2020. I watched sprouts pop up from seeds indoors in the grey of February to fledgling lettuce carefully placed in the ground on a cold March day. I put the cucumber seedlings all in a row, hoping and praying that they would grow just a few cucumbers. And rejoiced each day as they got bigger and bigger. As the cucumber vines grew, they began to bear fruit that delighted my heart! I waited in ancipation for my first cucumber harvest, already planning to enjoy the crisp slices with tomato and basil and thinking of all the cucumber water I would enjoy during the summer.
Then the birds and squirrels found out I had a garden.
I started noticing that one day I would have 10 baby cucumbers and the next day I would have none. The wild critters munched off my cucumbers at the ends, leaving nothing for me to enjoy. After researching how to deter birds and squirrels, I promptly brushed both my dog and cat, and sprinkled their fur around my garden, but the most useful prevention was to
just buy a net to cover my plants.
After about 2 weeks of being covered, I harvested my first cucumber! Overcome with joy, I rushed inside to carefully slice the first bite, mindful of God's desire to have first fruits. After that first cucumber, I was even more motivated than before! I protected and watered and pruned and nurtured, and the vine provided more
cucumbers than I could possibly eat myself. My most bountiful harvest was those cucumbers, and each day I was coming inside with another handful to lay on the counter.
Then the heat of August came and they started to wilt.
The leaves changed from a vibrant green to a sickly yellow with brown spots growing larger each day. The fruit was bitter to the taste and became useless for anything other than the compost bin. The vines started to shrivel up. I panicked. I tried watering more. I tried picking off the dead pieces hoping to revive the plant. But they continued to die. Something in me echoed a sentiment of failure. I had killed my most productive plant! I wasn’t good enough to keep it alive, so maybe being a gardener wasn't my thing. Then I found myself in a foreign head space. I wished for a frost. “If it would just freeze,” I told myself, “I wouldn’t have to keep dying this death in my garden every day. This fight with pests, and disease and bugs. This failure that hurts each time I see something else wilting.” I quickly went from bring prideful of my cucumber harvest to discouraged and dejected because I had failed.
This continued to roll around in my head every time I walked outside, the weight of failure pressing in on me from all sides, where somedays I dreaded going to check on the garden because I didn't want to see what else was dying. Until I spoke with a dear friend who has walked this path before me, “That’s just what happens,” she simply said. “Toward the middle to end of the summer. The plants start to die out. They don’t last forever.”
Relief washed over me.
“It’s just what happens,” she said. Not that I did something wrong. Not that I had failed. Not that I had taken something so good and ruined it, but that their time of productivity had run its course. It was time to rest.
As I went out to the garden the next day, I resolved to pull out the cucumber vines. One by one the roots pulled up from the dark brown earth. I moved the whole trellis against the fence to let the vines dry before composting them.
As I walked back and looked at my small corner garden, I breathed deeply. There was space. There was openness. There was fresh possibility.
I pulled up a chair and rested. It was refreshing to remove the plants that weren’t producing and to dream of what could become. I quickly realized that in the place where my cucumbers had taken up so much space, I would be able to plant winter kale. So I did, and they would go on to produce food for my household all winter long. Thus, a new season was ushered in.
I’ve walked this scenario many times through life, either anxiously trying to hold too tight to what has run its course or giving up too quickly and wishing for a frost. Seeing a physical representation of it in my garden stirred me in a new way.
Maybe at the root of all our anxieties is the belief that God doesn’t actually give us his best. Once things have run their course, it can be time for them to go and time for Him to make space. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t blessed when the seeds sprouted from the soil, and it wasn’t beautiful when it flourished its fruit. Just that everything has its time, a time to plant and a time to uproot what has been planted.
All of creation remembers these rhythms and trusts God’s timing. Birds who fly south. Trees that shed their leaves. Bears that hibernate. Daffodils that pop up when there is still snow on the ground. Let us return to that trust of his goodness, his blessing of time, and his faithfulness in each season.
What season do you find yourself in? Are you in a season of fruitfulness? Then give thanks. If you are in a season of plucking up, then do so faithfully, trusting that God will provide the new fruit in the season to come.