Fruit, freedom, fireflies, fun! All things that fill up the summer. The warm, slow, bountiful months of summer bring joy in the form of just about everything. The long bright days, the abundant fruit off the vine, the flirty glow of the firefly, the mighty roar of thunderstorms, and the laughter of children’s freedom all color summer bright with joy.

Summer brings about a shedding. We lose the layers of protection and step outside, opening ourselves up to be touched by the breeze and bask in the glow of the sun. Days grow much longer and while we often take time off to rest and enjoy, our work is still important.

So far this year I have written about how to find joy in both the physical and spiritual seasons of winter and spring. It’s vital to recognize where we are in order to know the assignment and get the most out of the season. It’s also important to keep in mind that seasons change. Each season builds on the next and if we are aware of this truth then we can indeed enjoy what it has to offer.

Like in the natural, spiritual summers are a time of spiritual development and fruit-bearing. There is nothing like seeing the literal fruit of our labor come up out of the depths. The process of growth can be very painful so when the bud begins to show through the dirt, the flowers open,  and the fruit appears, it’s cause for celebration!

The summer assignment is twofold: water and weed.

“Water, water, water.” My sister-in-law owns a plant nursery and that’s what she tells me every time I ask her for advice. She says most people simply don’t water enough. They may sprinkle or even pour, but most often the soil doesn’t get saturated. The way she can tell if a potted plant has enough water? If it’s heavy. She can tell by the weight. The same applies with us. We need to be spiritually full with the fresh living water! Heavy and dripping with it. We need to be filled to overflowing. Jesus promises us that we need never be thirsty again, but unfortunately many of us are dehydrated! For some reason, we take a sip and run only to find ourselves parched and dry shortly after. It doesn’t have to be this way.

One way I have found to stay hydrated in the natural is by always having a source of water with me. I like a big ol’ container – with a straw. That’s vital! If I have it with me I will drink it. If I don’t, I will go all day without even thinking about it. That’s not good, and the same danger is found in our spiritual summer. We want to be sure to water our souls and the fruit the Lord is producing with God’s word and his presence. If we don’t, the fruit that we’ve planted will wither and the harvest will be minimal. How you stay spiritually hydrated is unique to your relationship with the Lord, but may I suggest considering a new spiritual discipline? Have you tried silence? How about memorizing or singing scripture? Giving, opening your home, or intentionally stopping for the one are other practices that may help water your soul.

There is an enemy out to steal your fruit. Weeds! And of course bugs, and my arch-rivals, the little lizards that eat the baby buds. But weeds are where you can really be deceived. Back to my sister-in-law. When I invited her into my garden to help me weed and prune, I was shocked. She cut away and pulled up things I would never have realized shouldn’t be there. It’s important that the water, sun, and nutrients go to the fruit. The weeds and “suckers” can choke out and destroy the good stuff if we aren’t careful. Spiritually this looks like us spending our time, energy, and resources on things that aren’t from the Lord. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in. Being attentive to the Spirit allows us to know what needs to be cut or pulled. Just because something looks good or even produces fruit doesn’t mean it’s from the Lord or should be cultivated. Perhaps now is a good time to ask the Lord what weeds need pulling in your life?

Our assignment to water and weed in the summer comes with another pairing. Growth and stillness. The work is good, but so is the rest. The summer invites us to rest in the shade, appreciate the beauty of our surroundings and reflect on how far we’ve come. John Steinbeck said, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” It’s here that we find Jesus.

Of all the leaders in the history of the world, Jesus had every reason to push through and not stop. But it was in the resting where he was filled. Rest helped Jesus maintain joy. The time spent alone connecting with the Father or communing with friends was vital to handle the tasks ahead. Because Jesus was only reliant on his two feet (or the legs of an animal) there was forced downtime to recover. With so many technological advances, we have the option to almost never stop. But summer calls for rest and stillness. Why? Because Autumn will come. If we cultivate with diligence and wisdom, the harvest will be plentiful. Summer is a time of growth, it’s not the culmination of the work. To every season, turn, turn, turn….

Seasons change. The spiritual summer brings great joy, and we are invited to join Jesus in the work and play.