I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many acorns or pecans as I have this year. My yard is packed full of both and my lawn mower sounds like fire crackers as it grinds them all up. As I drive into or out of my driveway the popping sound underneath the tires has gotten amusing. The squirrels are certainly having a heyday. A friend told me this weekend he can’t walk in his back yard barefoot anymore despite the fact that it’s been so warm lately that shoes really haven’t been necessary.
I’ve heard varying speculation on why there are so many pecans and acorns. Some say the 30 consecutive days of rain we got in August is the explanation. Others tell me that oak and pecan trees just have their natural cycles. Some years are big ones. Some years there are no acorns or pecans.
A young man sat in my office recently and recounted his spiritual pilgrimage. He said it had not been a slow and steady path but one with lots of hills and plateaus. “It’s like I learn a whole bunch at one time and then it all levels off and sinks in for a while. Then there is another period of upheaval and learning.” That’s my experience too.
We have breakthroughs in life where things really come together. Everywhere we look there is fruit falling all around us for the taking. Insight and wisdom just flow and I get all excited by the fresh new understanding. Finally, in those watershed moments, it seems I have figured things out.
But then there come the dry spells, the times when things just move along without much new happening. I often wonder in those times if I am doing something wrong, if I should be doing more or something different. I tend to judge the plateau times as places of less value. Somehow I seem to think that there should be fruit falling around me all the time. I want constant enlightenment.
Maybe the acorns and pecans have something to teach me.
When there is something God wants me to learn, he doesn’t leave much to chance. It seems like the lesson is repeated to me from many different sources. Something I read in scripture, for instance, will be echoed in a novel I am reading, a hymn I have heard, some song on the radio, something a friend says, or some dream I might have. God speaks in themes more than he does mysterious little riddles. When there is something God wants me to learn, he drops acorns and pecans all around me until I get the point. And, then, after I learn a lesson, I usually experience some sort of plateau, a time when I don’t have to deal with any more new lessons. It gives me time for the lesson to sink in.
Maybe the spiritual life is designed to rain down insight and breakthroughs for a season and then give us time to process things before the next season of growth. Our bodies do the same thing when we’re younger: we have growth spurts and then time to adjust to the growth. The plateaus aren’t times when nothing is happening. They are times when things are sinking in and we’re being allowed to get accustomed to the newness. Maybe our psyches can only handle so much change at once.
We seem to need seasons in our spiritual lives, times of growth, times of dryness, times of cold wet rain, times of loss and times of gain. They all seem to serve a purpose and help reveal that there is great plan for salvation being carried out. We certainly don’t cause the seasons but we have the opportunity to be faithful to the seasons and do the work given to us. God has come to us so graciously in Christ Jesus on the Cross. And he continues to come to us in the various seasons of our spiritual lives. If it seems that life is flat and you’re not getting anywhere, maybe you are resting from your last season of growth or being prepared for another season of growth. Learning to trust the seasons of our lives is an important part of faith. God is working out our salvation and the redemption of the entire world. Watch for it. Wait for it. Embrace it when you see it. God will make himself known to you at just the right time.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.