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Autumn: A Season of Dormancy

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A lot of writers these days, myself included, are writing about the changes that come with autumn. 

The coloring of the trees followed by the dropping of leaves causes branches to go bare and the wind to go a little silent. A lot of us may be reflecting on what it is we’re being invited to let go of, or perhaps pause, in this season of life. 

Some of us may be mourning the longer and warmer days of summer while others of us may be looking forward to the invitation to come and rest and be dormant. 

This is the season of life I find myself in; a season of dormancy. 

A Season of Dormancy

I felt it coming on after our trip to Maine this past June, this invitation to be still and rest. I very much felt like I was entering into a season of stillness where all I’ve cultivated these many months can now be harvested and enjoyed. 

Now that October is here though, I must admit that I’m not sure what a dormant season is supposed to look like. If I were to let mother nature teach me what it means to be dormant, I would notice the bareness, the inactivity, the slowness, and the slumber that the trees, plants, and animals are all beginning to exude. 

The sun even responds to autumn’s invitation to dormancy by sleeping in and going to bed early, causing our days to be shorter and light to be scarcer. There’s a chill in the early morning winds now and the sun doesn’t beat down warm rays but rather casts an icy glow.

I feel it, autumn, the harvest season that causes everything to go bare and dormant; I feel it in my bones. 

And I feel, too, this invitation to be still, slow down, and be dormant. 

To be dormant means to be temporarily inactive; for your normal, physical functions to slow down for a period of time; to be alive, but not actively growing. 

The trees are preparing for winter, the ultimate invitation to go dormant. For months, there they’ll stand, bare and alone. Alive, but inactive for a time, preparing for spring and the new growth it will bring. 

Actively Stirring

In dormant seasons, while nothing actively grows, I would argue something actively stirs. The longings we hold are still present, the dreams we have are still cradled close, and the promise of spring and new life and new growth keeps us standing tall like bare-branched trees. 

One of my favorite writers, Madison Aichele, talked about dormancy in her most recent newsletter, affirming what I already knew,

“In the empty spaces where life seems dormant, God is tending faithfully to your roots. As a new season approaches, and you’re drawn inward to discover where you should pause, I hope you remember this: sacrificial space is holy ground.”

God faithfully tends to our roots in seasons of dormancy, and I wonder if the invitation in this bare, slow season is to bare our souls to the cold as we learn to hibernate and dwell in Jesus. Maybe hibernating in the Spirit, allowing ourselves to go truly dormant, is exactly what our souls need to prepare for winter, and then eventually, spring. 

I’ve learned in my 27 years of walking this earth that you can’t have the warmth without the icy cold; summer without fall, spring without winter. It’s those cold, barren months where it looks like nothing is happening that actually prepares you for future action and growth. 

It’s these slow, still, cold, dormant months that are making and forming us.

So, here I go, back to my question of what a dormant season really requires of me; of what it looks like to be alive but temporarily inactive. 

I think it comes back to allowing God to tend to my roots, and naming what that looks like in this season. 

Gratitude & Rest Feed the Soul

Colossians 2:6-7 reveals what might be required in the dormancy of autumn and winter,

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (NIV)

This leads me to believe that a dormant season is meant to be a thankful one. Is it a coincidence that Thanksgiving, a holiday marked by yummy food, good company, and a grateful heart, falls right toward the end of the final month of autumn?

Maybe. Or maybe it’s a hint that tells us to fill ourselves with gratitude when the months grow cold and slow. Because gratitude, a thankful heart overflowing, requires me to stand but to be still enough to lean in and notice all the blessings that unfold in a single ordinary day. 

And those blessings, those God-winks that turn to gratitude and praise, are the food that feeds my soul roots so that I’m ready to bloom come spring. 

Another Scripture passage that the Lord has given me in this dormant season is Ezekiel 34:15-16,

“I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.” (NIV)

What a beautiful invitation to let God pursue me; to hold out empty hands and receive the rest that only He can give. His Word says that He will tend to us and have us lie down, that He’ll search for us and bind us up while strengthening us with His love and power. 

Rest & Receive

Dormant seasons are seasons of rest, yes; seasons of slow, still work. But I believe they are also seasons of receiving. To let God faithfully tend my roots means to surrender certain things that keep me from receiving true rest in God’s presence; that keeps me from dwelling and hibernating in Him. 

So, perhaps in this autumn season, it’s time to take inventory of what feels heavy and what feels like it needs to be put down for a time. Maybe dormancy is an invitation for the soul to actually grow lighter; for it to take up space and breathe a little deeper. 

My husband, Max, shared with me today about a sermon he listened to by a preacher named Darius Daniels who said that most people want the spiritual fruit but they forget about the integrity of the root. 

We all want to bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). But without healthy roots, love turns to hate, gentleness to harshness, kindness to criticalness, and faithfulness to fear. Dormant seasons give our roots a chance to rest and receive the nutrients they need to cultivate ripe, healthy spiritual fruit. 

What I Feel Called To Lay Down in This Season

I suspect that I will continue to wrestle with the question of what this dormant season is requiring of me; of what the Lord is asking me to surrender or pause so that I have more space to breathe. 

One of those things I feel Him calling me to faithfully let go of in this season is the blog. Not to give it up entirely or permanently. But to go a little silent for a season as I tend to some other things in my life like my Abide spiritual formation program, my Etsy shop, and my newsletter. I’m not sure how long this holy pause on the blog will be, but for now, I feel the call to go as the Spirit leads. 

And he’s inviting me to put this down for a while. 

But I will still be actively writing every Friday in my newsletter, Writings of a Beholder; a letter for the faith wanderers longing to slow down, seek still moments, and behold God’s presence with them in the mundane of every day. I plan to wrestle with tough questions in that space, share what the Lord teaches me, and just be a human learning what it means to love God and look for Him in the sacred ordinary. 

There’s a slow expanding happening within me that feels as real as the crisp autumn air. And rather than turning away from the cold and all that feels slow and dormant, I will listen, lean in, and keep asking the hard questions. 

I will continue to behold the Spirit amidst all that looks barren. 

Because when the ground looks barren, one must remember to dig beneath the surface, as that’s where true, steady growth usually happens. 

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24, NIV)

Dormant seasons can feel like seasons of nothing, maybe even like death. But just because something isn’t moving now doesn’t mean that it’s dying. The restful inactivity that dormant seasons require may just be a slow breaking open. 

A slow breaking open of more love, compassion, and understanding. A slow breaking open of solitude and rest. A slow breaking open of your truest self as revealed in the depths of your soul hidden inside the Spirit. 

There is a Time for Everything

So, friend, if you’re like me and you find yourself in a dormant season this autumn, snuggle in and get cozy. Light a candle, reach for a book and wrap yourself in the rest of God. Literal rest, yes, but also the whole rest of God that one might miss amidst the busyness of spring and summer. 

Allow yourself to break open in this season, receiving with a heart full of gratitude all that God wants to provide and all the ways He’s choosing to tend to you. 

Remember, friend, as time slows and the air becomes colder, as the days shorten and the light becomes scarce, lean in and pay attention to how this season is forming you. 

I’ll leave you with a good word from Ecclesiastes 3:1-11. And as you read, I pray that the Spirit would speak and you would find clarity on what dormancy might mean for you. 

"There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
  a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." (NIV)


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