When I was scraping the ice off of my car windows this morning so that I could see for my drive to work, I did not think that today would be a warm and sunny way, but so it was. In looking at and briefly enjoying the sunshine, I was reminded of the fact that even if I do not handle direct sunlight well, I appreciate the sunlight and blue skies as a sign of the approaching spring with its new life bursting forth and its unpredictable and dramatic shifts of weather. Although I have always been a bit of an autumnal person by nature , in that I relate best to the fading light and lengthening shadows and last push for the harvest before the gloom of winter’s chill, there is something that is enjoyable about the new life that springs up after winter is over, a reminder of hope and the chance for renewal .
Being a person who tends to live my life within certain patterns (which are often noted with amusement by my coworkers and others who happen to see me on a regular basis), I also try to notice the patterns of life around me. Although I am not prone to be someone who is nostalgic about the past, it is certainly clear that there used to be more regular patterns than there are now, and that tends to make life a bit more complicated and somewhat more stressful. There is a certain calming and relaxing effect that comes from a pleasing and regular pattern. Given the fact that many people tend to enjoy those forms of entertainment and food that offer a certain regularity and consistency, it is clear that we tend to appreciate a good pattern, whether it comes in a well-designed song or in rain that comes on a summer afternoon at 3PM on a regular basis. To be sure, there is a pleasure that comes from an unexpected sunny and beautiful day, but it is a beauty that comes by chance rather than a beauty that springs from regularity.
It is somewhat of a cliche that everything comes and goes, that this too shall pass, but the fact that such phrases are cliches does not make them any less true, even if they are not necessarily complete either. What often appear at first glance to be cycles are rather spirals if we look at them in a more full and complete manner. For example, the cycle of disobedience-punishment-contrition-deliverance in Judges appears to be a regular pattern , but in reality it is a downward spiral in which the punishment of God is more severe and the repentance of Israel much more limited and the judges become increasingly culpable in the moral decline of their nations from the upright Othniel to the troubled Samson. When the moral dimension of the conduct of leaders is taken into consideration, the repeating pattern shows a downward spiral from virtuous leaders to less virtuous leaders as time goes on and as moral corruption spreads deeper within Israel as a result of forgetting that God is their king.
In our lives too, we cannot merely rely on a pendulum swing to restore things back to the way they were. Sometimes life contains tipping points that make it extremely difficult to return to earlier equilibria or patterns because of the slow and gradual changes that have resulted in the environment. The larger realities of our world and the constraints that we live under, as well as the relative drift of our society, greatly impacts what sort of options are available for us and what sort of struggles and difficulties we will face. There will still be patterns that we can discern, but there will be some areas where there is progressive building and other areas of regression, in a complicated and seemingly chaotic combination that is difficult to discern unless we have a sound worldview to base our judgments upon. Let us enjoy the random moments of beauty that life gives us, and let us be sensitive to the patterns of our world and of our time, as we are able.