I write from the great state of Georgia, specifically in Fayette County just south of Atlanta. Additionally, it is mid-afternoon, Thursday July 16, 2020, as I hunt and peck on my computer. This I share for context.
Just after lunch, Gavin Keaton stopped by my office, along with his father, Montrell, and Madison Busbee, our congregation's Director of K-5 Children's Ministries. With two little words, Gavin, a young fellow on the cusp of beginning second grade, offered a wisdom about life that seems worth sharing.
Stepping outside, it felt like we'd put our heads into a convection oven. A glaring sun was beaming straight down and heat seemed to radiate off the building, the ground, and the sidewalk. "Boy, it's hot," I observed.
Gavin's response was classic - "It's summer." Nothing more, nothing less, just "it's summer."
Kind of like, "What did you expect? Snow? In July? In Georgia?" Not sassy or smart aleck, merely a statement of fact, a recognition that this is the way it's going to be now and for the foreseeable future. "It's summer."
There's something kind of powerful about accepting life as it is and then dealing constructively, positively, faithfully with it. Gavin gently reminded me that I could wish it were late October and the leaves were changing and a brisk breeze was blowing in my face, but wishing wasn't going to make it so. I could long for a winter day with a slate gray sky and whispers of a dusting of snow, but I better be ready to wait. It's summer.
If you're like me, you spend way too much time wishing things would be different. As a kid, I wished I could be taller and more athletic, and I definitely wished the Governor would wake up and realize that having kids learn Algebra was a colossal waste of a teacher's energy. In high school I dreamed the gorgeous, popular girls would realize what a catch they were missing by looking right over the top of my head - literally. In college I wished that I didn't have to study and the same for seminary.
Now, I wish I didn't have to wear glasses and that my hair would quit letting go and disappearing. I wish I could eat anything I want without gaining weight, and I wish the stock market only went up. You get the picture.
All that wishing didn't and isn't changing anything. I never grew an inch by wishing and, not only did I have to take Algebra, they forced me to take Geometry, Trigonometry, and Calculus. I still had to study, or pay the consequences, and I spent more Friday nights hanging out with my buddies than taking girls to the movies. (I did get the last laugh on that one - it just took a few years and then finding a gorgeous, popular girl from a different town and school!) If I don't wear a hat I get a sunburned head and as to eating what I want, well, if you look at our church's livestream, you'll see where that has gotten me.
Summer is going to be hot in Georgia. Period. Likewise, there are some things we just aren't going to change, but we can change how we respond to them. And the biggest thing we can change is our attitude. We can choose to see life from the perspective of God's grace, focusing on the blessings around us, or we can turn our attention to what we don't have, to what we don't like, to what we wish would be different.
I think about the Apostle Paul and his letter to the Philippians. He tells them, Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. (Philippians 4:8) That word think seems to indicate something like ponder or pay attention to or focus on. In other words, quit obsessing over what you wish was different, or looking at what you don't have or don't like, and start looking at the good things, the blessings, the gifts in your life.
Here's the kicker. Just after Paul admonishes them to look for the blessings in life, he makes a bold statement as he thanks them for their gifts of support for him. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (Philippians 4:11) Focusing on Christ, on the gifts of his life, on the wonder and reality of eternal life through Jesus, allowed Paul to live in an attitude of contentment in whatever circumstances he found himself. Whether it was July in Georgia, ninth grade Algebra, or a dipping stock market. Even dateless nights in adolescence or the vicissitudes of middle age and beyond.
It's summer. Be content.