I tend to get a bit melancholy this time of year, especially when the leaves have finally left the trees. The bare branches, dark evenings, and freezing temperatures remind all of us that change happens whether we want it to or not. It’s no mere coincidence that All Saints Sunday falls during this transition from fall to winter; the seasons mirror all that life brings us, from the beginning to the end. It’s easy to get frustrated with the cold days and long nights and wish for spring.
My husband and I moved to western Minnesota in February of 2004 for our first calls. Growing up in the lake country of northern Minnesota, I had never experienced life on the prairie. I was used to tall evergreens and views of beautiful frozen lakes in the winter. I received a rude awakening once I started my life in farming country, where we lived in a parsonage ten miles from town. On my drive to and from my church, all I saw along the way was prairie…and empty fields…and more prairie. The landscape looked barren and lifeless to me, and the snow didn’t even stay in one place; it swept over the fields and mixed with the dirt, barely covering the dead cornstalks long since harvested. I was not inspired or pleased with what I saw.
A month after we moved, I was blessed with a conversation with an old farmer, who was a gentle soul and a soft-spoken man. He took my husband and me out for a special dinner of broasted chicken to welcome us to the area. He couldn’t see very well (yet insisted on driving us), so our drive to town through the country was quite slow, giving us a lot of opportunity to watch the landscape around us. He mentioned something about the nice view of the fields (as I quickly learned, it is a favorite past-time of local farmers—especially older farmers—to spend hours driving and scoping out the countryside). I crabbily responded with something about how everything looked lifeless, as it was still March and the winter hadn’t let go of its hold over the prairie. The farmer took a deep breath and said patiently to me, “Well, dear, the fields aren’t lifeless—they are just resting. They need to rest just like we do to prepare for the work of growing the crops.”
The instant he said that to me, I fell in love with that image, and I still carry it in my heart. It reminds me of the value of rest and Sabbath; it cautions me when I want to rush; it insists on the value of here and now; it prompts me to look for potential when I can’t see any. For a life without rest and Sabbath is not lived to its potential, and to always live wishing for the next chapter (like a new season) leaves us missing what is right in front of us. I never looked at the fields of western Minnesota in the same way again, especially after I fell into the endless rhythms of planting, growth, harvest, and finally rest—just like a well-lived life.
For everything there is a season, a time for every matter under heaven.