Summer, wrote A. W. Tozer, is “the period of full power when life multiplies, and it is hard to believe that it can ever end.”
But summer’s lease truly hath all too short a date. So here at the beginning of the season, it’s worth asking: What do I really want this summer to be like? How can this season be one where I grow with God and with my neighbor?
That’s an invitation, not an imposition. Christian leaders who read CT can imagine as well as we can the early summer sermon they’re uninterested in hearing: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! … [I]t stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” It’s a wise (and inspired!) proverb, but the assumed application has always sounded unpleasant: Work harder for Jesus! Trade your summer rest for ministry!
Sure, some of us may need the proverb’s admonition to get up off our beds. But many CT readers are already fairly antlike in the summer: volunteering at Vacation Bible Schools, arranging summer mission trips and service projects, picking up the slack as fellow church volunteers travel… And for many Christians, summer is not mostly a time of recreation but of finding seasonal work to supplement a meager income.
The question we want to ask this June, then, is not: What more can you add this summer? Rather, it’s this: What are you looking forward to? What brings you joy about this season? And how can it be more of a blessing to you and to others? What provisions come in summer that can be harvested for a lifetime?
Perhaps you love summer’s longer days. Seize them! It’s much easier to start or rekindle a habit of morning prayer when awakened by songbirds and early sunlight.
Or perhaps you’re a student who sees summer as the joyous season of finally sleeping in: This may be a time to reflect on what intentional Sabbath days of rest can mean for you or in finding special unhurried times of reading Scripture before you’re out of your pajamas.
Maybe you love the summer grilling season. Pull your portable grill to the front yard some Friday evening and invite passing neighbors to enjoy some free hotdogs or burgers. Or are you too introverted for that kind of project? Invite that one family you’ve wanted to know better for an informal backyard barbecue.
Again, this is not a to-do list. One person’s gardening joy can be another person’s yardwork burden; the idea here is not to come up with additional chores or to indulge in a self-improvement campaign. Consider the ant not merely in its labor but in its planning. Early summer is full of wishes and ideas. Too frequently we find ourselves ruefully flipping the calendar to September with a litany of missed opportunities.
One of the great joys of being part of a global body of Christ is that wherever we are, we have family members meeting weekly in worship. So many of us give a passing thought to attending a church service while we’re on a family road trip. So few of us—even those of us who love planning trips!—actually sit down to Google local congregation service times as vigorously as we search out motel rooms.
Meanwhile, we have family members in our own congregations who are lonely, sorrowing, or isolated. Don’t spend the summer searching for the saddest people to turn into seasonal “projects.” Rather, you might simply spend a few moments in prayer telling God, “I’m looking forward to going to a ball game this summer. Please show me someone to invite along.” He’s surprisingly good at answering that prayer. And he’s looking to grow joy at that game, not to dampen it (John 15:11).
True, inviting God into your summer joys is a risky endeavor. Summer is a time of growing and of harvesting—and growing in the Lord can bring its own pains even as it brings greater joys. But we needn’t go looking for greater toil this summer; if it comes, God will provide opportunity for joy in it. All we need to do here in these early weeks of warmer, brighter days is to pray, to prepare, and to plan. We invite God into our hikes, our picnics, our stargazing, our kite flying, our hammock reading, our seashell beachcombing, our zoo trips, and our campfires as we ask him what summer joys he has invited us into.
Ted Olsen (@TedOlsen) is editorial director of Christianity Today.
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