Spiritual Formation

Seasons of a cornfield

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The sunbeam warmed my face, and I slowly opened my eyes to greet the morning. There it was – a big ball of yellow stretching its rays over every inch of my backyard cornfield.

As a little girl, I loved the sunrise so much that I moved my bed next to the window so that I could wake up every morning to the brilliance of the morning sun rising over my cornfield. When the sun faded for the day, the deep shadows swallowed the field into their darkness.

Season after season the field and its sunrise lay as a stable backdrop for my comings and goings. Overflowing with life in spring and summer, the fields reflected rich seasons of growth I have known in my life. The contrasting harvest of the autumn crops and fallowness of the winter fields mirrored the seasons of my life in which dormancy, emptiness, and loneliness pervade in my soul. With remarkable distinction, each season offers unique contributions to the process of growth.

In spring, the freshly plowed field was clean, velvety, rich. I remember abandoning my shoes to squish my toes in the soft, dark soil. At times, my life feels the same way – clean and rich after periods of intense personal “plowing.” These times hold deep fellowship from intentional time with friends, intense growth from purposeful devotions, and inner peace from patiently waiting on the Lord. Such plowing removes the weeds and their roots, and my soul lies quiet and clean. I approach my heavenly Father with quiet confidence and humility, basking in the warmth of a summer day.

Summer in my cornfields brought tiny corn sprouts that grew noisily (yes, you can hear a cornfield grow!), yet steadily. Inevitably, their immense growth always caught me off guard as the stalks suddenly rose well above my head. A unique noisiness characterizes these times, as clamoring spurts of growth occasionally interrupt the steady humming. They are the times when I consistently read my Bible, sacrifice for my family, and participate regularly in the family of God. Every so often, I catch glimpses of the closeness of my heart to God’s, and true joy runs deep. Filled with both busyness and calm, fun and tedium, hard work and relaxation, my summer growth happens sometimes a bit at a time and other times in huge leaps.

The autumn cornstalks withered in preparation for the harvest, accompanied by a brisk wind that reminded us that all signs of life would soon disappear. The farmers diligently gathering their crops held a subtle sense of both urgency and fulfillment. At times, my faith has felt as though it is withering. After long periods of struggle, I find myself tired, skeptical, depleted. While my faith has not faltered completely, I feel on the verge, asking questions of God I have not asked before. Where are you in this withering season? Will all my growth make a difference once the crop is harvested? I share the farmers’ urgency to find answers, resolution, eager to feel fulfilled again. Yet neither come quickly.

Instead, winter arrives. The fields lie dormant and dead-looking, frozen under a cold layer of snow. The hope of the green is long gone, a lifeless brown has taken its place. After a long and withering autumn, I too feel dead, dormant, and frozen. Sometimes I am simply too worn-out to seek God; other times I no longer even know where to look. Yet I do not see what is happening deep below my surface. Being renewed by its fallowness, the field is resting, preparing, rebuilding, and restoring itself for yet another intense season of spring. It is these bitterly cold seasons that prepare me for the coming warmth, for in their barrenness, they expose the emptiness of my soul apart from God, its plower, planter, harvester, and sustainer. This time of rest then restores the fertility of my soul, removing deep, old roots that choke life from the freshly planted seeds.

Season after season, the sun rises over my fields of growth with gentle persistence.  Like my backyard cornfields, the growth happens in seasons. Sometimes it’s as rich as the silky soil I loved to run through barefoot as a kid and sometimes it feels like frozen tundra – bitter and biting. Sometimes it’s a warm sunbeam on my face and sometimes it’s a chilly wind. Sometimes it’s noisily growing and sometimes it’s quietly withering.

My bed no longer sits right next to my window, and the cornfields and sunrises of my childhood seem long ago. But I will forever carry their secrets within, thankful that the process of my own growth requires both the mystery of a barren and bitter winter field and the richness of the fresh spring soil.  

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