Monday, December 1, 2008

Winter - a season of rest


Winter has traditionally been associated with death but actually it’s a time of dormancy, a time of rest and refreshing.

This is obvious in nature. Bears and other animals hibernate during the winter and wake up from their rest when spring arrives. Plants and trees also rest during the winter and once again begin to blossom and bloom when winter is over. This time of rest and renewing is critical for life to continue.

Our lives should also be characterized by times of rest and inactivity. However, we live in a society that pushes us to constant activity. Most of us live in a whirlwind of activity that is emotionally and physically exhausting.

Religious systems also tend to promote this treadmill of constant activity. Sundays are packed with Sunday School, morning services and then often followed by evening services. In addition, there are mid-week Bible studies, prayer groups and various other meetings. Life in these systems seem to center around constant activity.

I’ve heard many people who are now out of the system describe their time there as exhausting. I don’t believe this is the way Father intended us to live. Ecclesiastes says that “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.” Seasons come and go. There are seasons of growth and harvest but there are also seasons of rest when nothing seems to be happening. After a season of activity, it’s often difficult to adjust to our seasons of quiet.

Our first thought is that we’ve somehow displeased God and he’s turned away from us. We search our hearts to see if there’s any sin we’ve committed. We pray and we cry. We read our Bibles seeking a word from God. When none comes, we get desperate and we fast hoping for a breakthrough.

Often, during this time, it seems as though God has put us on a shelf as ministry opportunities dry up and stop. Our natural tendency is to try to make something happen. However, I believe that this isn’t a season for ministry and activity. It’s a season to sink our roots more deeply into Father’s love and to allow our relationship with him to be strengthened. I believe that if we yield to this time of inactivity, Father will work deeply in us as we rest in him.

In a vineyard, the vines are pruned during the winter when all growth has stopped and sap is no longer flowing. Pruning is necessary in order to remove damaged or unhealthy growth from the vine. During our times of rest, Father will heal and restore us to greater health and vitality by removing from our lives those desires and distractions that weaken us.

In a vineyard, however, healthy growth is also cut away in the pruning process. A healthy vine will each year produce many branches on which there will be many clusters of grapes. If not pruned, this excess growth will weaken the vine causing it to produce an inferior crop. Over time, the weakened vine becomes subject to disease and insect attacks.

In a similar fashion, Father will cause us to focus on fewer things. During a season of fruitfulness, opportunities are multiplied and we try to be involved as much as possible. However, Father is calling us to a life of fruitfulness without the busyness.

Wayne Jacobsen says, “No season of ministry is open-ended. God harvests in specific seasons through specific people. If we recognize this fact, we can allow specific harvest times to come to completion – and then we can celebrate and let go.”

To read and understand more about these seasons, I recommend Wayne Jacobsen’s book “In My Father’s Vineyard.” This is an excellent book which is now out of print but can still be purchased through Amazon.com.

15 comments:

Amy said...

Aida,
Great post here! Indeed, I remember having gone into my first real season of "rest," the reason it felt so "odd" was because, as you mentioned, I had been conditioned and received the message that rest was "wrong" and somehow not fruitful. While Papa does give us certain things to do during this time of rest, they are much more tied up in growing in relationship to Him and others. It's a time of depth, substance, contemplation, listening, maturing...all things we are wisest to embrace, rather than run from by trying to "busy" ourselves in the former old ways.

It's neat, I actually posted a blog early this morning (wrote it days ago) about Winter/rest! Neat how the Holy Spirit brings thoughts to brothers and sisters hearts in the same time-frame sometimes, eh?!

Blessings,
~Amy :)

Aida said...

Thanks, Amy.

My first season of rest was stressful as I fought it every step. Finally, I just stopped trying to make things happen and focused on what was happening, which as you said was primarily building relationships.

Now, more is happening but it's nothing that I planned or set out to do. Things really just fell into place. Even my relationships have not been orchestrated by me. They've just developed and grown organically.

Because I'm more relaxed and at peace, I now appreciate those times of rest and inactivity.

That's funny about your blog. I had this one written for about a week but just got busy and didn't post it until this morning. It seems you and I are really flowing together.

I'll go over there and read yours as soon as I get a chance.

Free Spirit said...

Good words here, Aida.
It seems that fewer and fewer people like the inactive seasons. It's so counter-cultural.

Joel B. said...

Aida,

My heart melted as I read this. I love words like these! I think there are times of great 'fruitfulness' and activity, and those times are wonderful, but it all comes as part of the natural process of Life that also includes pruning and dormancy, etc.

The church today is so geared towards doing, doing, doing and fruit, fruit, fruit that people are made to feel guilty when these things aren't showing in their lives... OR... they burn themselves out trying to grow and bear fruit and work, work, work. I think that "rest" is preached, but it's more like, "give your body and mind time to rest and read your Bibles and pray every day / every week... But to rest and be dormant for a SEASON??? That's out of the question! God's expecting great things of you right NOW! ;)

Anyway, I love all of this. If only the reality of "there is a time for everything" would seep into the heart of the church.

Aida said...

Free spirit, I can understand. I didn't always like them either. Now I think they're just great! Maybe I'm just getting lazier. That could be true too. LOL

Thanks for your comment.

www.robbinswritings.com said...

Aida,
I'm grateful for this post, as it speaks directly to this season I find myself in.
There is a David Wilcox song called, "All the Roots Grow Deeper When It's Dry." Here's a line from the song:

Summer lasted a generation

A generation - and then the winter wind

The bounty harvest that seemed so endless

It seemed so endless until it gave what it could give



Prosperity will have its seasons

Even when it's here, it's going by

And when it's gone we pretend we know the reasons

And all the roots grow deeper when it's dry.

Aida said...

Joel, I agree. I believe it’s important for us to understand the seasons. All of nature has seasons of rest. Humans are the only ones who think we can go non-stop indefinitely. Add to that a religious system that survives on production and you have a group of exhausted, harried believers.


Jim, I believe the seasons of rest are the ones we fight against the most. The words of that song are so true. The season of dryness when it seems like no fruit is being produced and opportunities have died up is really the season to allow our roots to grow deeper into the fertile soil of God’s love and grace. Those strong roots we’ve develop during those times will hold us fast when the storms of life hit. Thanks for sharing that.

silent wings said...

Thankyou for writing this and including Wayne's quote. This has been the first winter that I noticed I was fighting the season God has me in...truth is some winters DO last longer. Great stuff Aida. The inviatation is making sense now.

Aida said...

Silent wings, it's true. Some winters do last longer than others and I've fought many of them myself. My desire is to learn to enjoy whatever season I'm in and to reap the benefits of the lessons that I've been taught during those seasons.

Ann said...

Thanks Aida. Another way to look at things, a changing perspective. Having had a lot of down time this past year, I can honestly say I understand and I think that its true. As hard as its been, the best times have happened when I just sit back and rest.

Thanks for the reminder.

Aida said...

Hi Ann. We fight those quiet times but I think when we look back we realize how valuable and productive they really have been, just not in the showy way we've come to expect.

Thanks for stopping by.

lionwoman said...

Aida, this is absolutely wonderful. I am going to be re-reading this one periodically. It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it?

In north central Texas where I lived my whole life until last year, there are no real seasons. Almost summer, summer, still summer, and quasi-winter. Kind of messes up any sense of the pace of time and the natural coming and going of seasons. I really think having lived with this goofy Texas weather all my life, without the pace of seasons, has affected my ability to grasp it in the spiritual sense either.

Here in east TX we've had more pleasant and properly seasonal weather this year than I'm used to. It gives me an odd sense of security. I'll have to ponder this some more. Thanks for a great post!

Bino M. said...

I heard this in radio that last year when they did a survey, they found that Feb 22 (or some day in Feb, can't remember exactly) was the most depressing day of the year. Not to mention it's winter and the 'inactivity' fuels the depression. I think the idea of rest is kind of vanishing from today's culture, so people feel depressed when they think they are not doing enough. Going back to Genesis, God invented Sabbath and He wanted people to literally rest that day. I am pretty sure a Jewish Sabbath wasn't very 'productive' as per today's standards.

I have learned from my life that it is true that there have to have seasons of inactivity, rest and stillness in our life.

Your post didn't put pressure on me to 'perform' and 'do', instead it quieted my heart. Thank you!

I am ready for a bear-like hibernation NOW! :)

Aida said...

Amy, I can understand your difficulty. We learn so much from nature and creation that when we're not exposed to it, we can't relate and we lose the beauty of what Father is trying to teach us.

I'm glad you were encouraged. Thanks for sharing. I laughed at your description of north central Texas seasons. That was really funny.

Aida said...

Thanks for sharing, Bino. That was interesting about the survey. We really do fight the concept of resting, don't we? Yet, God rested when he was finished.

Acts 14:26 says that Paul and Barnabas sailed back to Antioch because they had completed the work God had given them.

Part of the problem is we never finish. We never reach a point when things are completed. Unlike Paul and Barnabas, we just keep going and going with no end in sight.

Perhaps, if we actually finished what Father had given us to do, we would be able to rest before starting on a new job.

Like you, I'm learning to enjoy my times of rest. It's getting cold here so hibernation sounds good to me.