The other day I had the opportunity to speak with a man who is an avid fisherman. He has what is (to me at least) a “fancy” fishing boat. He has all of the “right gear.” And, he is just plain good at fishing. This man spends the spring and the summer actually fishing in competitions all over the region, and is even part of a local bass club. Honestly, I didn’t even know there was a local bass club.
As I spoke with this man, we talked about the weather–as Iowans so often do. And we spoke about the changing of the seasons–the warm, long, summer days coming to an end, giving way to the colors, the breezes, and the shorter days of autumn. He said to me, “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little sad that fall is here,” then went on to recount how the fishing competitions have come to an end, and how his boat will be winterized soon.
The man and I sat in silence for a bit, staring out across grassy hills with dots of orange and golden leaves that had already fallen. Finally, the man said to me, “It’s probably a good thing, though. I’ve been going all over for competitions since spring…it’ll be nice to have a rest.”
Autumn–perhaps more than any other season–offers us eternal lessons. Chief among those lessons, for me, is that there is a right time for holding and a right time for letting go. There is a right time for hurrying from here to there and doing all of the things, and there is a right time for all of the things to come to an end. There is a right time for connection and spending hours on end with others, and there is a right time to retreat into quieter moments spent alone.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us that “For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.” And while that’s true, I know that it is often hard to remember–at least for me. It’s hard to remember that the only certainty I have is not in holding on to some fixed point in time that never changes, but rather is found in the ever unfolding process of living. Knowing this doesn’t make changing seasons any less sad or any less lonely or any less frightening. It doesn’t make the changes we aren’t necessarily ready for hurt any less. It just reminds us that even those sad, lonely, and frightening times don’t last forever–even when it feels like they will.
So as the leaves change and begin to let go from the trees they have clung to since spring, may we consider the changing seasons of our lives. What needs letting go of in our relationships? What damaging story that we keep telling ourselves about ourselves or others needs to be allowed to fall to the earth? What in our work lives, in our recreational lives, in our communal lives needs to be given a rest–even if for just a little while? What changes are happening now that are causing us panic or causing us to be ill at ease?
For everything there is a season, to be sure, and sometimes those seasons hurt like hell. And sometimes they feel SO GOOD we want them to last forever. Either way, they always change. That, friends, we can count on.
Learning to weather the changing seasons with you,
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen was called as the pastor of St. Paul Congregational UCC in June of 2020. Prior to her call to St. Paul, Pr. Melissa worked as a hospice chaplain in the Ames, IA area, following pastorates at rural churches in Central Iowa and Southern Illinois. Pr. Melissa is a second-career pastor with a background in agribusiness and production & supply operations. She received her M.Div. from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO, and holds a MA Ed. in Adult Education and Training, and a BA in Organizational Communications.