“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it stays as it is; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24
“Spiritual warmth is love, and so good, whereas spiritual light is faith, and so truth. When warmth from the sun is being received, trees and flowers grow, producing leaves and blossom and fruit, or seeds. This occurs in spring and summertime. But when warmth from the sun is not received, only light, nothing grows. All vegetation then becomes inactive, as it does in autumn and wintertime. The same also applies to spiritual warmth and spiritual light that come from the Lord. If a person is spring-like or summer-like he receives the good that flows from love and charity and produces fruit; but if he is autumn-like or winter-like he does not receive that good and therefore does not produce any fruit. Yet he is still able to receive light, that is, he is able to know things that are matters of faith or truth. The effect of the light of winter is similar to that of summer, in that it too produces colorful and beautiful sights and enables them to be seen. But it is different in that it does not penetrate beneath the surface because it has no warmth in it, and as a consequence nothing can grow. The reception of light alone therefore and not of good is as when objects do not receive any warmth.” Secrets of Heaven n.4180
Every journey has mileposts. Every life has seasons. Psychologists recognize that humans develop through stages. This knowledge need not be the product of deep thought. But if I do not think deeply enough about the fact that my life has recurring seasons, I will become spiritually stuck. Likely in a cold, dark winter state!
Deep thought means bringing the truth from the Word about the seasons of life to bear on my living. The Lord invites me to become conscious of His design for my life, and to pay attention to the markers He sets in my path, so that my journey may continue to follow the path He has set. And His path takes me through a variety of seasons, while a part of me (an external part!) wants a spiritual life of perpetual fruitfulness.
I have experienced the process of: seeing a change that needs to take place, working on it for a time, and then having the delight of its accomplishment. I appreciate the image from the Word of a Sower spreading seeds that sprout (without my effort) which then produce fruit. So I want to simply repeat that process without break.
However, the Lord has built in a break. He has decreed that the land and plants need to rest before the spring/summer/autmn process can be repeated. The Lord is asking me to appreciate the recurring “death” that has to happen. And the passage above encourages me that I can be doing an important work for my spiritual life during the fall and winter. Now I must convince my natural man of the goodness of this time of cold and dark!
But I still am bothered by the teaching that fall and winter are also said to picture decline and death. That something has to die for there to be new life. One part of me feels that it is very important not to diminish the possibility of my spiritual death. And another part of me wants to mitigate that interpretation somehow. One reformulation is that every progression includes a death of something material and perhaps evil, but life actually continues. This is why so many plants and animals survive the harshest of winters. The life force built into them by the Lord continues, even while its outward expression is missing.
One application is to parenting. There are many wonderful copasetic times (as my Mother used to say), when the schedule runs smoothly. And there are times when I simply must put my foot down. There is no negotiation, no leeway, no extra time. This will not be a fruitful season. It will be lit well by the light of truth, but the warmth of love is relatively absent. This state will still promote the child’s development so long as there had been a spring and summer of fun, joy and love, which the child has experienced as recurring.
Another application is to marriage. Love begins full of life. Seeds are easily planted, and fruition often is quick and easy. Inevitably there is a change of season. At some point a need is not met, an expectation is unfulfilled. The warmth decreases. It is vital that the light remains bright. The truth is that each spouse must be of service to their spouse and to the marriage. This light will guide the couple through the cold time until the warmth of spring returns.
The message is that we can revel in the fruitfulness of this autumn season. Let our delight in the journey and in the Lord’s providence become a reservoir of truth from which we may draw during the coming winter. As old states die, so do the falsities and evil delights that had grown in us. We enter winter embracing the death stage of that part of us that must die, yet still following the light, knowing that the Lord will bring us to yet another season of warmth.
Precursor August 2007