It’s the first day of kindergarten for my last child, and he and his older brother walk in front of us down our driveway with backpacks on, roughhousing like tiger cubs. Brandon and I snap the requisite first-day photos and wait. When the bus pulls up, Henry gets in line with his older brother and looks for the signal from the bus driver to get on the bus, marches forward, and climbs the stairs, not once looking back or jumping to a window to plaster his face against the glass and wave vigorously. No tears, no hugs good-bye.
It’s the first day of kindergarten for my last child, and he’s like, “No big deal.”
I know these moments, these crossing-overs and ends of eras, are important. If we don’t actively acknowledge them in some way they pass silently, surprisingly, and then nothing is the same ever again. Without some awareness of and preparation for the changing season, how am I supposed to know what to do with the change? Without fanfare, the snow will fall, the temperatures will drop, and I’ll still be standing in a tank top and shorts, shivering. What happened? Where did the summer of my life go?
You might be humming, “To everything…turn turn turn…there is a season…turn turn turn.” If you weren’t yet, you are now. You’re welcome.
There’s something to marking the turning of the seasons. I’ve never been one to grieve the passing of time, nor to engage in the fanfare of over-celebration. I don’t understand graduations at the end of every year of school or participation trophies at the end of every elementary-aged rec league soccer season. I have loved every stage of my kids’ lives so far—some more than others—but for whatever reason, I’m not built to feel the pull to hang on to what is about to pass. I sing along with the author of Ecclesiastes, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” To everything, turn turn turn.
Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with me, why my heart hasn’t broken over every departure of seasons. So many of my friends are there, lingering nearer to the bitter end of bittersweet, sad to see their babies become toddlers and then preschoolers and now kindergartners. Soon they’ll be dating. Soon they’ll be looking for colleges. What then? Maybe that’s when it will hit me; maybe that’s when I’ll grieve.
When I knew Henry would be our last natural-born child, I savored my pregnancy with him, savored every internal kick and nudge, savored the fullness of time from conception through to his birth, then savored every chubby-cheeked smile and Michelin Man roll. It was a gift—after our last of four miscarriages—for this baby to stick, to know that this one, this child, would be my last-born. I think that knowledge and awareness prepared me for the letting go of that particular era, the end of a decade of trying to have children, sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding.
That’s the best-case scenario. That’s a turning of the seasons I handled well.
I might be able to send my youngest son off to school with no fanfare, a quick “See ya!” and “Love ya!” a lingering wave at the bus stop and walk back down the street. I’ve got those first days down pat.
It’s the second and third and fourth and fifth and fifty-fifth days of a season that get me. The author of Ecclesiastes might’ve sung about there being a time for everything under the sun, but he also whined, “All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Meaningless, meaningless. All of it is meaningless. Over and over again. Did you know this degree of cynicism was in the Bible?
I love the changing of the seasons, the new thing God is doing, the promise of something different on the horizon. It’s the space between the change that makes me uncomfortable, weary, bored. I feel the cycle of the seasons and stare grimly into my discontent, casting my proverbial rod and reel out into the waters to see what bites, to see whether a new job or a new hobby or a new book will do the trick. I need something new. I’m tired of all this sameness.
And still the seasons turn, and still we grieve and rejoice, dance and weep, live and breathe and turn to dust and die. Someone else gets sick. Someone else gets shot. Someone else is violated. Someone else gets married. Someone else gets divorced. Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!
Life is about change. So when I find myself in the rut of sameness, I get antsy. My knee-jerk reaction is to start applying for jobs in other industries or other cities, or looking at houses in new neighborhoods, or toying with trading in for a car. I want change for change’s sake. If change isn’t going to happen for me in its own time, I’m going to force its moving forward.
That might be what I want, but what I need in the in-between looks different. What I need is to pause. Breathe. Search my heart and mind to find the pulse of my discontentedness, to figure out why I’m drawn to the whirlwind. What could the quiet in-between of the seasons hold for me that I’m missing? While I’m preparing for the next time of change, what am I missing in this season, here and now?
The author of Ecclesiastes dances from whirlwind to whirlwind. He tries out sex. He tries out success. He tries out family. He tries out power. He tries out fame. He tries out youth. He tries out riches. With every conquering of every season, with every settling of dust after the fanfare, the rustle dies and quiet takes over. Well, that was meaningless, he concludes.
So what isn’t meaningless?
The teacher in Ecclesiastes says, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” This is what twelve chapters of the Bible’s version of the “Odyssey” concludes.
Everything is meaningless; in the meaninglessness find the root of meaning.
Find the Self that God placed in you, and love out of that knowing the full and bright and terrible and beautiful world. Carry God with you into every season, every change and every slowpoke around the sun, and carry God with you in the letting go. Remember this God, this pulse of love in every living thing.
I am trying to remember this God in the monotony. I am trying to remember my God in the quiet changing of the seasons. I am trying to remember, so that I see the fullness of life and not just the turning of it. I am trying to remember God so I can see God in it all, so I can make meaning from the meaningless it is without God.
I am trying to remember this God, and let this God come along for my ride, and come along for my standing still as the bus drives off for the fifty-fifth time.