The author of Proverbs writes, “He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.” (Proverbs 10:5)
Whether you’re a son or a daughter of the living God, resist the urge to slumber during harvest this summer.
School’s Out For Summer
Did you recently close the books on another school year? Well done. Graduating to the next grade is no small task as it requires daily study. Homework must be completed, facts and dates and figures must be memorized, and exams must be passed.
In short, ongoing hard work is preparation for academic success from one semester to the next. Spiritual formation is similar. Have you noticed that growth in Christ seems to progress in tandem with the school year?
Every day is rhythmic, full of structure and repetition. You rise early for the bus, attend classes for 6-7 hours, participate in extracurricular activities and finish homework, eat dinner with the family, and finally retire for the night. Attending church regularly on Sunday is a natural extension of school’s rhythm, along with going to a mid-week worship service. Reading the Scriptures and devotionals are more likely to be completed too as purposeful habits take root in the spirit.
Conversely, with no alarm clock chiming at 6 a.m. and no homework due for math or science, that once familiar rhythm begins to still and slowly go silent altogether as summer slides into view. Structure can collapse, and repetition can vanish in a matter of days like the smoke from that Big Green Egg perched on the deck. Why? For the simple reason that summer is a glorious time of year. Daylight is prolonged, and the beach and the lake and the pool beckon our hearts to extended relaxation. As they should.
School takes a toll on the mind, which is why additional time with friends and vacations are sheer delight (even if you’d prefer to spend minimal time with the family). In the words of Sam Keen, “Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.”
Laziness has consequences though.
Hands to the Plow
The Bible, unsurprisingly, makes many references to farming. From Cain who “worked the soil” (Genesis 4) to Jesus who spoke of the sower and how various types of seed respond to circumstances (Matthew 13), agriculture is a recurring topic in the Scriptures.
Solomon, the author of Proverbs, advises us to not be idle this summer spiritually, but make the most of June and July by gaining wisdom.
As minister Matthew Henry puts it, “He who gets knowledge and wisdom in the days of his youth gathers in summer, and he will have the comfort and credit of his industry.” Solomon echoes this, writing, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it costs all you have, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7)
In short, resist letting this summer become a season when meaningful school year seeds (e.g. prayer, time in the Word, attending church, etc.) are snatched away by the tempter, unable to take root due to shallow soil, or suffocated by the worries of life.
Glimpses of God
Summer slows the speed of life down, but we must refrain from treating it like a two-month Sabbath. Spiritual striving shouldn’t cease. Still, dropping down to a jog from a sprint is refreshing to the body and the mind.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” says Jesus. With that in mind, what are some practical suggestions to ensure that this summer, like the recent school year, is spiritually beneficial?
First, marvel at the longer days and the stars that follow when the sun finally does set. “Long days show the glory of a God ‘who is light, and in whom there is no darkness at all,’” writes John Piper.
Personally, I tend to catch fleeting glimpses of God on July 4th. My favorite summer film is undoubtedly The Sandlot (1993), and in a truly memorable scene, Smalls, Squints, Porter, and the rest of the crew race to the diamond for the only night game of the year. Fireworks provide just enough light for the boys to play, though they lose interest quickly as their eyes become enraptured by the screeching bursts that gloriously explode in the darkness.
Thankfully, God’s eternal glory isn’t short-lived like a firework; no, it endures, brightly, forever.
Second, keep attending church. With the proliferation of technology, we can watch services online even if we’re out of town. Keep tech at arm’s length during vacations, but make it a priority to fire up the laptop, tablet, or phone on Sunday and follow along with the teaching. If your church doesn’t offer video, locate the audio file, or search out another minister your intrigued with. For the truly bold, attend a church in town while you’re out of town. It may be awkward at first, but you can observe firsthand how others worship the living God. Styles are different for sure, but our shared praise is the same.
Finally, plant seeds for the next school year. I know that school is the furthest thought from your mind with it just letting out, but leverage summer nonetheless by continuing to cultivate the spiritual disciplines that were more commonplace during the fall, winter, and spring months.
King Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven,” one of which is “a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.”
Gather and enjoy the fruits of this past school year, both academic and spiritual. Recharge this summer. Relax and slow down for a season. Look for God’s glory outside, stay connected to the church, and plant seeds this summer for the day when the yellow buses do return.