I’m almost done reading The 4 Season Solution by Dallas Hartwig. In it he argues that too many of us are living in a perpetual summer time and need to return to four-season living.
Having rhythms be a part of life is not new; just think about creation. God didn’t simply “make everything.” He wove ebbs and flows and rest into the seven days. Or think of the pilgrim festivals listed in Deuteronomy 16 and they ways that Passover, the Festival of Weeks, and the Festival of Booths added rhythm to a year.
The author highlights four areas that are often out of balance:
Depending where you are in the world, the difference in daylight hours between summer and winter can be a few hours, or they can be dramatically different. Yet, many of us on-the-field live as if we are in the peak of the summer all year long. Why?
I would argue because we have mixed the truth with lies. Yes, what we are doing is important and at times even vital. But even Jesus knew that he, in human form, was not the answer to every need placed before him. So, how can we return to the truth that our ministries, organizations, and lives need to have more seasonality to them?
Let me unpack the four areas a bit more. In summer, people tend to sleep less, which is fine . . . for a season. Does your sleep have rhythms over the year? Or do you tend to go to bed or get up at the same time all year without regards to when the sun goes down or comes up?
When it comes to food, in my opinion, this is a strong suit for us. Do you tend to eat seasonally? For many of us, there is no option but to eat seasonally! However, this is changing around the world, and you probably have more out-of-season options available. Summer eating tends to have more fruits and carbohydrates available. Thinking of the food you eat, are you noticing that your body craves different foods in different seasons? (Hint: it should.)
Moving on to movement (see what I did there!), this can be another strength for us on the field with the amount of walking many of us do. The author advocates that we get as much everyday-movement that involves lifting and carrying things as we can instead of the mindset of “intense workouts.” So, some of you reading this may need to move more . . . and some may need to move less, or at least differently. As you look over the past year, are the ways you move your body the same all year round? Do you notice seasonal variety to how you move (or exercise) your body?
The final area is the one I hear the most lament over when it comes to overseas life: connection. Many of us are connected to people; the problem is how often we rotate in and out of physical proximity to each other. Or how often our lives are feast or famine. For instance you may have a holiday without any extended family and then eat every single meal in a week on furlough with someone precious. As you think about your connections, do you have long-term connections that you maintain? What are your connection-rhythms like over a year? Is your door open all year round, or do you have seasons where you withdraw a bit more?
Near the end of the book, Hartwig suggests that if you notice you have been living in perpetual summer for a while, it is not enough to simply want to live differently. You need to have an intentional and prolonged fall and winter to reset. Afterwards you can emerge into the rhythms of a typical spring, summer, fall, and winter.
I know that Covid has thrown many of us personally or organizationally out of whack. I am thinking beyond Covid-life, both before and life after our current season. What were your rhythms before Covid? What might they look over the next few years? Have you learned to live with a four-season rhythm to your life and ministry? Or do you tend to live in perpetual summer because what you do is so important it is worth the sacrifice?
Of course there are times when this is true and what you are involved in has a sense of urgency to it. I’m in a more busy season myself because I’m the chair of a board that needed to let the Executive Director go. We are in an “all hands on deck” season. But we need to remember this is for a season. I am already thinking about how I need to guard against this level of busyness becoming my new normal. And how after this summertime phase, we may need, as an organization, to have an intentional fall and winter season — which might sound backwards when you hire a ED or have a new team member.
What that looks like when we have programs that will continue and actual people with actual needs, I don’t know. But I do know that if I, and if we, do not ask the question, we are doomed to stay in perpetual summer.
God has so much more for us. Let’s not get tricked into living such one-dimensional lives.
And all God’s people said . . . .