(Photography by Felipe Anderson)
Kyle and I have a favorite author – Mark Buchanan. We’ve read and reread all of his books. The Holy Wild. Your God is Too Safe. Hidden in Plain Sight. Spiritual Rhythm. Buchanan is a Canadian pastor with a way with words, a way of describing holy things with wild abandon. When Kyle took a dive to explore deeper spiritual waters a decade or so ago it was chiefly Buchanan’s fault.
A couple of weeks ago I decided to reread Spiritual Rhythm, its subtitle a good fit for some questions I’d been asking: Being with Jesus Every Season of Your Soul.
He starts with spring, and this is the season I’m hoping we’ve entered. It’s what I described in this blog not too long ago. Both me and my family, days getting lighter, seeing new life. And then last week that conference in Chicago seemed to confirm it – my soul waking to new things God is doing, just in time. We could only endure winter so much longer.
Last weekend, barely home from my road trip and with plenty to do, the weather turned summer. Temps in the 80s all weekend, the lake calling, so we ignored our chores and we loaded the Jeep. Opened the cabin and took advantage of Trey’s football buddy and all those muscles, put in dock and boatlift a whole week earlier than planned. Felipe and Jimmy and Trey’s buddy Conner brave enough for tubing in that spring-cold water. Me listening to the fun from my place in the hammock, book in hand but eyes heavy. All of us pretending there’s no homework waiting and grass that needs mowing, indulging for a day in a season to come.
But it’s not really summer, not yet.
I know when I read Buchanan’s next chapter. He’s describing the soul, and a season I’ve been in. Familiar, but distant. Not now, not yet.
How do you know you’re in summer? Simply, things flow. Your life is marked by effortlessness. Fruit comes easily. Joy rises naturally. Light shines everywhere. You have energy to spare. Most seasons of our hearts demand something from us, some sacrifice, some labor, some deep wrenching adjustment. But summer just wants to give and give. Its only demand is that we surrender to it, bask in it. Spiritual insight hangs plump from low branches. It’s easy to nourish ourselves, warm ourselves, refresh ourselves. In our hearts’ summertimes, God seems giddy…
It sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. I know. I spent months, even years in this season.
The first time I read this particular book my soul was in summer still. So when the author warned it wouldn’t last forever I wasn’t sure I believed him. I’d discovered Joy Unending and I was staying. Not leaving. No question.
I’m not sure when I noticed the shift in the season. And I’m not even sure which season came next. When it comes to the soul we might skip without reason. Life changes, things happen. As for me, I’d been praying and dreaming and one day I realized things weren’t as I expected and it was no longer summer.
Nostalgia is an inescapable part of summer – says Buchanan. I know. I’ve been longing, nostalgic, ever since.
Recently I was telling my pastor about my summer. Not calling it that, but describing the season when my soul was alive, my heart giddy. Telling him how much I missed it. He smiled and said, “You’ve known what it’s like, and you’ll get there again.” Which is what Buchanan says, too.
The first big disappointment in our Christian lives is when that initial summertime turns cool and grey. A dampness of complacency creeps into our bones. Icy winds of doubt chill us. Spiritual abundance becomes barren. And we are dismayed.
(And this is why I so enjoy this author. He says for me what I’d struggle to say for myself.)
And then he goes on. But we learn that other springs and summers are coming, and each becomes a foretaste of that endless summer, the kingdom of God in its fullness.
Summer is a taste of heaven.
Next week two boys will begin summer vacation four days earlier than the rest of their classmates. It might not have been wise, but two months or so ago Kyle bought tickets to watch Colombia play soccer in California during the last few days of school. We emailed their teachers, and got their approval. Now that it’s here, parents and teachers all second-guessing, but Felipe and Jimmy giddy at the prospect of an extra week of no homework and sun.
I’m not sure I’m ready. Boys home and lazy, nocturnal for the next three months. Kyle and I sure to be weary from late nights and keeping up with the demands of a houseful of teens. Nostalgic for summers past. And then, this morning, I read this:
I think nostalgia is really misplaced anticipation.
That’s it. That explains it. Not missing the past, but longing for something I’ve tasted before and hope for again. A soul’s summer – for my boys and my husband and me.