On Saturday, I took part in a strange American ritual called: cheer competition. Even though I cheered in high school, today’s competitive world of cheer is completely foreign. It’s louder, faster, more impressive, and more expensive than anything I experienced growing up. I felt conspicuously sparkle-less as I entered the crowded arena, and tried to follow the pack of parents that seemed to know what to do and where to go.
At exactly 2:05 pm, as promised, it was my daughter’s turn to compete. The parents shuffled toward the front of the 6-foot elevated stage, for our literal front-row seats. Like the groupies that we are, we videoed and cheered for our cheerleaders as the squad of 20 flew into action. They danced, stunted, and tumbled across the floor in what appeared to be a nearly flawless routine. Two and a half minutes later, it was over, and we scooted off to stage right, as the next set of parents scooted in.
Leave it all on the mat
While my other kid’s sports make allowances for human error with second halves, subs, and jump balls, cheer aims for perfection on the first and only try. Even though my daughter’s team did well, it still felt slightly unfair. All those hours of practice came down to only a few seconds of glory (for some) or tears (for most). It’s an all-or-nothing moment when you’re on the cheer mat.
This foreign land of “cheer” remains a mystery to me, but maybe there are lessons about seasons of hard work hidden below the surface of oversized bows and sequined uniforms. Perhaps our lives, and our creative endeavors, are more like a 2½ minute cheer routine than we care to admit.
The circle of life
More than ever before, I’m recognizing how the external, visible things we present to the world have their own hidden life cycles. When we see the perfectly executed cheer routine, the long-awaited novel hit the shelves, or the new business launched, that’s harvest day. It’s that moment we’ve dreamed of and longed for, but it’s only a fraction of the process. It took months of planting, watering, and tending to make harvest day possible.
In creation, harvest (or autumn) is only ¼ of the whole seasonal picture. Generally, we plant in the spring, work the fields in the summer, harvest in the fall, and rest in the winter. We see this cycle repeat in physical life (conception, birth, growth, and death) and our work and creativity (inspire, create, share, rest). While these representative seasons don’t necessarily follow the actual seasons, their similarities are helpful in recognizing where we are in life.
What season are you in?
In Ecclesiastes 3:1, King Solomon said, “For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.”
Are you sure, King Sol? Is there really a season and a time for everything? I think so.
Are you in a battle of the wills with your toddler?
Chances are you’re in spring, where you’re planting the biblical seeds of authority and submission that will lead to a harvest of peace in the future. Keep sowing those seeds!
Are you feeling burnt out, tired, and without creative energy?
Relax! You’ve probably expended a lot of energy somewhere else, and it’s time for winter’s rest and renewal. (Don’t resist this time. It’s more crucial than we know!)
Are you busier than usual and mentally tied up with a big project?
Don’t feel guilty that you can’t do other things right now. You’re probably in the dog days of summer productivity, which means that harvest is right around the corner.
To everything turn, turn, turn
In the 1960s the Byrds brought Ecclesiastes 3 into pop culture with their song Turn, Turn, Turn. It was a groovy song that went through the seasons of life from Solomon’s poem.
To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
But what the Byrds left out of their song, is my favorite part, and Solomon’s conclusion of the seasonal cycle of life. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” Ecclesiastes 3:11.
Solomon realized that the ache we feel with every death, or that joy we experience from every new life, is put there by God to remind us that he is God, and we are not. We don’t understand why all the turn, turn, turning has to hurt so much, much, much, other than it makes us long for heaven. The homing device of our hearts was put there by God, and it points to our real home…heaven.
The routine of “life”
Like the cheer competition, we only get one shot at this routine called “life.” There are no do-overs or jump balls, but by God’s grace, there was a substitute. He lived the perfect life before a holy judge, made the perfect score, and credited that score to our account. We are approved, and we are winners!
In the meantime, we can hold the tension that while our seasons always change, God never does. Therefore, we can eat and drink, cheer, work, build, create, and take pleasure in all our toil – for this is God’s gift to us (Ecc 3:12-13). As we wait for our eternal home, we can leave it all on the mat, before God and an angelic cheering section (Heb 12:1-3), and know that this too is but a season.
With eternity in mind,
P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about your own Seasons of Creativity, grab the 34-page guided workbook, Seasons of Creativity that will help you identify your seasons and work with, and not against, them.
P.P.S. I’ve been in a season of summer, working on an exciting new writing community called The Writers’ Bloc (website coming soon!). It will be a place where writers can learn, grow, be encouraged, and advance in the art and heart of writing together! Be sure to follow the journey (AND JOIN ME!) on Instagram and Facebook at @mywritersbloc.