Season or Storm?

Featuring Dennis Jernigan Posted on August 2, 2008

To every [thing there is] a season, and
a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up [that which is] planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

-- Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 KJV

    I have weathered many storms in my life. Growing up in and raising my family in Oklahoma has seen to that! Even as a child, I learned to watch for the signs of a storm. My dad was always telling us to get out of the fields and off of the tractors whenever there was even the faintest hint of lightning. Whenever the spring storms that tend to spawn twisters would roll through, we learned to watch the sky…but even knowing the signs, a storm can catch one off-guard - even in the off-season. Here in Tornado Alley, we know all too well that a storm is no respecter of seasons. We have had tornadic storms in every season of the year. We have just learned to read the signs and to prepare ourselves…and we have learned when it is time to head for the “’fraidy hole!”

    One day when I was 12 years old (well past tornado season), I was in the house getting ready to do my chores when all of a sudden I heard the most awesome rush of wind that I have ever heard. Seeming to come out of nowhere, the sound drew me to the back door where I looked out just in time to see the barn being lifted straight up into the air! As the barn rose, it flipped upside down and then crashed to the ground, being crushed as if by some giant hand into a million pieces! The storm had literally come out of nowhere. A small front was coming through but seemed like a pretty inconsequential isolated rain cloud.
    My first thought was for my brother’s safety. Paul was out in the hay field on the tractor. I ran like the wind to where he was almost half a mile away. When I saw him I realized he was not harmed…and when I asked him if he had seen the tornado he responded incredulously with, “What tornado?” I told him the barn had been destroyed. He then asked the most obvious question. “Is Grandma OK?”
Grandma Jernigan! Her trailer house (tornado magnet) was right next to the barn! I had been so focused on my brother that I had completely forgotten her! We both ran back to her house which was still (thank God!) intact. Her door was locked so we began to knock furiously. Opening the door, she looked out at the damage directly in front of her home and said, “What have you boys done?!”

    Grandma was fine. The barn was destroyed…but we got a concrete slab out of the deal which became our new basketball court! My point is this: just as with tornado-bearing storms, spiritual storms can (and will) come in every season of life. We might as well get used to that and prepare our hearts for the proper response. Seasons, on the other hand, are a different animal.

    Again, growing up and making my home in Oklahoma has taught me much about the change of seasons. We have 4 very different and distinct seasons here. And I love them all! I love the freshness of spring air. I love the crisp early days of spring when everything is blooming and the rains wash away the debris of winter, calling everything to green again. I love the call of spring that bids us outdoors to run with our kids and fish for that spring bass in the pond. Spring, in my spiritual life, came when I was born again and given a brand new identity.    

    Everything was new. I could not wait to run through the spiritual fields of my heart and proclaim the joy this season brought. Spring is when crops are planted in the many home gardens in Oklahoma. Spring is when the newness of faith in Christ springs forth like a brand new sprout in the garden of our soul. Spring passes into summer…

    Summer is the time of growth and it is a time of working the fields. Rain becomes scarce and weeds begin to grow. To protect the wanted growth from the weeds, we must work. Summer brings heat and heat brings weariness, but the coolness of the evening and a dip in the old swimming hole brings wonderful, soothing relief making the work seem very worth it in the end. Summer, in a spiritual sense, is when we work at the calling God has placed on our lives. For me, that was cultivating the gardens of my children’s hearts and cultivating the seeds I have sown in and through my ministry to hurting people. Summer is very rewarding because work is good for the soul. Summer passes into fall…

    Fall is the time of harvest. I remember days, when I was a boy, when it was time to harvest the potatoes. Dad would plow up the rows and we come along and pick up the huge potatoes in buckets and then take them to the old chicken house that we had converted into a dry cellar for storing the potatoes and onions and other such produce. Mom would can the chow chow, green beans, corn, and whatever else we had grown, putting aside enough for the winter. In a spiritual sense, fall is when we harvest the spiritual seed we have sown. Personal growth is part of the harvest. Maturing in our identity in Christ is a wonderful bounty that is worth the efforts of summer weeding! Reaping the harvest of changed lives of those we minister to is a bountiful harvest well worth the investments we have made in the lives of others. Seeing a child walk in the ways of the Lord after they leave the nest are yet another of the great spiritual harvests of life. Autumn passes into winter…

    Winter. Winter is cold and death comes. Winter means rest and should be a time of refreshment. When I think of winter I think of the many times we set aside for family and for reminiscing about the good times of the past year. Thanksgiving and Christmas are times when we gather together and fellowship and remember times past. This brings renewal and refreshment to the family and to society in general. Spiritual winter is the same. Ministry slows down. There is time for reflection and time for thanksgiving for a life well-lived in the Lord’s presence (no matter how many falls or storms we weathered). Winter prepares us for eventual death…but as believers, we are assured that we will pass from physical death into eternal life…and the cycle begins with springtime in heaven. Yet, winter passes…
    I am facing a dilemma in my own life. My circumstances are causing me to wonder whether I am facing just another storm or if I am facing a change of seasons. Change of seasons are sometimes hard to discern. In a physical sense, we have the actual official first day of spring, first day of summer, first day of autumn, and first day of winter. We have no doubt when those times occur. Yet, as one season gives way to the next, there are always several weeks when it is difficult to discern the actual season because the weather seems to be so ambivalent. Still, we have those hard, fast calendar dates to rely on. Yet, in the spiritual realm, we do not have such defining hallmarks.

    My children are growing up and leaving home. Confident in their identities and excited to be in the springtime of their lives, they simply don’t need me as much. That season of my life is changing from provider and protector to friend and advisor (and occasional safety net!). That one is easy to see and the change is a bit easier to endure because I readily see my role in this new season. In my ministry, it is a completely different story. Since the early 1980s I have sown and watered and seen much harvest of souls for the kingdom. My heyday was the late 90s and early 2000s. My assumption was that I was in the autumn of my ministry years. But due to certain circumstances, I am beginning to wonder whether I am in the winter.

    Even though I no longer draw the huge crowds I once did, the demand for stories and ministries such as mine seem to be just as great as 20 years ago. Many hours are spent online daily encouraging those in bondage to seek the freedom found in knowing Christ intimately. This feels like harvest time. The only problem is that I have focused so much on the spiritual harvest that I have not done much to prepare for the winter of my ministry…when reality means having provision set aside to make it through the winter. This feels like a change of seasons for me and I have simply not recognized the signs of that change. This has left me wondering what I am to do if the season of public ministry is over. Quite the dilemma for someone who knows nothing else. Yet, there is this still small place in my heart that says this is rubbish…that the circumstances I am facing are simply a result of one of those out-of-the-middle-of-nowhere storms of life.

    When facing a storm, one must do what is necessary to survive. Provisionally, I am taking the steps necessary to keep my ministry afloat. Mentally, I am girding up my mind with the truth of God’s Word – and worshipping my way to peace. Emotionally, I am reaching out to friends to help me weather the storm. Overall, I am choosing to remember that God has faithfully gotten me through much worse storms than this (deliverance from homosexuality was nowhere near this difficult. Seriously.). And, when I get through this storm I have found that, indeed this is also a change of seasons, then God will have the grace I need to get through the autumn. I really do look forward to the winter…just don’t think I’m quite there yet! And I am not sure what the autumn is supposed to look like. I had always thought I would know the signs…but I am as clouded as ever in my ability to see what the next step is. All I know is that the words to the following song sum up what I know to be true. I received this song the summer I had to go back and deal with some very hurtful people and issues from my past. In that context, this change of season or storm of life is made more bearable when I remember how He got me through.
A Fellow Seeker/Struggler,

"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." John 16:33 NAS

I Will Still Be With You
Words & Music: Dennis Jernigan
As Recorded on the Dennis Jernigan Worshipper’s Collection Vol. 1

Many mem’ries I’ve gathered up down through the years,
Gladness and sorrow, much laughter and tears.
Still I am thankful for life for so many reasons.
Spring will come, summer too.  Fall and winter pursue.
Soon the day will come when this life will be through.
And I’m so thankful, Lord, there is no change with You through the seasons.

I want to watch the spring in blossom with You.
I want to feel the heat of summer with You.
I want to watch the autumn leaves falling down.
I want to walk with You through snow, winter cold all around.
And when the days of winter draw near the end,
I want to rest by the fire with you, dear sweet friend.
When this life is over, life is not through.
I will still be with You.

I remember with fondness when You brought the spring rain,
How it gave me strength to go through a hard summer’s pain;
And the joy of simply being with You every step of the way!
I’ll remember with fondness the harvest of Fall
And look forward to the Winter and wait for your call,
And when You say, “Little child, no more waiting” and You take me away!

Forever Lord, I want to be by Your side.
Beginning now, I want to live like Your Bride.
I want to stand before You, nothing to hide.
I want to plunge into the depths of Your arms open wide.
And when I look into Your wonderful face,
I want to rest inside the arms of Your sweet embrace.
Every moment all eternity through,
I will still be with You.
Every moment all eternity through,
I will still be with You.

This article was first published in iLevite, an online magazine.