Discerning the Season of Your Soul: A Gentle & Reflective Practice as You Step into the New Year
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Earth has her own seasons and we know them well – spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
With spring comes rain showers and hints of sunshine as flowers begin to bloom and the grass turns green again.
Summer comes in heat waves and smells like sunscreen and freshly mowed grass, a hint of excitement and anticipation in the air as school lets out and feet run bare.
Autumn turns a bit chilly as summer’s green leaves transform to reveal hues of red and orange, and pumpkins are put out on front porches while hot cider is cupped in gloved hands.
Then, as the year draws to an end, winter comes in all her snow-glittered glory as trees are stripped bare and Christmas lights are hung while the sky goes gray and seems to stay that way for a very long time.
Or at least, until spring comes knocking at the door again.
The Earth’s seasons are marked by what we see, what we feel, and what we smell. Our physical experiences, traditions, and memories come together to collectively mark the changing of spring to summer, and autumn to winter.
And while Earth has her seasons, so do our souls.
It’s easier to name the physical seasons we’re in because signs of them seem to jump out all around us. It’s a bit more challenging to name what’s going on in our inner life – the parts of ourselves that aren’t visible to the naked eye, but are still as real and present as our external lives.
Over the last few years, a very healing practice for me has been the practice of naming; being emotionally honest with the Lord and myself about where I am, what I’m experiencing, and how I’m feeling in response to that experience. This has helped me draw closer to God in relation to where my feet are, rather than where I want them to be.
Naming what lies within us – paying attention to what we see, what we feel, and what we’re experiencing in our inner life and inside our very real bodies – helps us discern the season of our souls.
Just like Earth, our souls experience spring, summer, autumn, and winter all throughout the cycle of our lives. Unlike the Earth though, our souls don’t typically follow the same chronological pattern. Even though it’s technically the winter season outside my window right now, your soul may be in a season of spring or summer.
By naming the season of our soul, we are better equipped to know what it is we’re needing more of and what it is we’re needing to set aside for a time. It’s a reflective practice, a grounding practice, that invites us to take a closer look at our life and what it might be wanting and needing from us.
Author, Parker J. Palmer, in his book, Let Your Life Speak, says, “Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.”
As December comes to a sudden close and a new year slowly dawns on the horizon, maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed. Maybe you feel the pressure to have goals, resolutions, and desires for the new year, but all you feel is weariness and maybe a little bit of hesitation or fear about what this next year might bring.
Maybe you fall on the other end of that spectrum and you’re sitting with your planner open; your goals, dreams, and desires pouring out of you like a steady waterfall as you look to the future with fresh hope and excitement.
Or, perhaps you’re somewhere in between.
Naming the season of your soul can help you discern what the Lord might be inviting you into as the new year approaches. It can act as a gentle guide, a companionable compass, calling you to notice what it is you’re most longing for and what it is you’re longing to let go of. Determining the season of your soul can provide you with the tools you need to tend well and faithfully to your inner life as you abide in the loving and faithful Spirit of God, letting Him lead you where you need to go.
Discerning the Season of Your Soul
Now that we’ve established the importance of naming the seasons of our souls, let’s spend some time looking at the different characteristics of the four soul seasons so that you can discern what season your soul might be in.
The Soul Season of Spring
The soul season of spring is often marked by new growth, new beginnings, and a fresh perspective. If you are in the spring season of the soul, the cold and loneliness of winter are slowly starting to fade and light is dawning in deep, dark places within you that ache for warmth and belonging. You are feeling ready to emerge.
The soul season of spring is a time of being replenished and renewed by the Lord as He leads you toward new thresholds.
Some words or phrases that typically resonate with those in the soul season of spring are:
- New beginnings
If this description is stirring something within you, friend, then you may just be in the soul season of spring. If that’s you, then I’d like to give you a few Bible verses to act as lanterns on your path in this soul season of spring.
“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.” (Isaiah 35:1-2)
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)
The Soul Season of Summer
The soul season of summer, like spring, includes continued growth. You can feel your roots growing stronger as excitement and passion build within you about all that you are cultivating. Summer is a time of celebration, activity, and abundance as you begin to notice the seeds the Lord planted in previous seasons come into formation. The soul season of summer is a time of sweet and true connection with God and those around you as your soul warms to the Light that has dawned within you.
In this soul season, you may feel driven, purposeful, and passionate.
Some words or phrases that typically resonate with those in the soul season of summer are:
- Inner fire
If you think you might be in the soul season of summer, here are a few Bible verses that may be of some help to you.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
“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.” (Colossians 2:6-7)
The Soul Season of Autumn
The soul season of autumn is a time of reaping what you’ve sown and harvesting what the Lord has grown within you in the spring and summer seasons. It’s also an invitation to let go of what may be burdening you and to shed what may be keeping you from true connection with God. There’s a sort of dying to self that happens in autumn as you begin to slow down and enter a season of rest.
If you find yourself in a season of transition, change, or transformation, you may just be in the soul season of autumn.
Some words or phrases that typically resonate with those in the soul season of autumn are:
- Letting go
Are you in the soul season of autumn, friend? If so, here’s a Bible verse that may act as a guide to gently lead you forward.
“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)
The Soul Season of Winter
The soul season of winter is a time of dormancy, rest, and darkness. It can oftentimes feel lonely, sad, and weighty. It’s an invitation to come and dwell in the shadow of the Most High as you learn to rest and trust in His embrace even when all looks lost and dark. The soul season of winter can also be a time of dreaming, anticipating, and hoping for what’s to come. You may feel weary, immobile, and quietly separate from the world and those around you.
If you are experiencing the weight of waiting, or you hear the invitation to be still as all seems silent and maybe sorrowful, then you just might be in the soul season of winter.
Some words or phrases that typically resonate with those in the soul season of winter are:
If you think you might be in the soul season of winter, then I believe this Bible verse is for you today.
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)
Naming Your Own Soul Season Through Reflection
If you’re not sure how to step into the coming year, friend, or you’re feeling weary and tired from 2022 and don’t even have the energy to get excited about what’s to come, I invite you to simply begin with naming where your feet are, or rather, where your soul is.
In the New Testament of the Bible, in the thick of His ministry on Earth, we often see Jesus withdrawing from His disciples and everyone else around Him to be alone with His heavenly Father, “As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer.” (Luke 5:16, MSG)
Maybe for you, your next right thing in love as 2023 approaches is to find God in those out-of-the-way places of your soul and discern with the Holy Spirit what season He has you in.
If you feel this longing to respond to His invitation to name where your soul is, then I believe discerning the season of your soul must begin in silent reflection.
Reflection invites us to look behind us with the Holy Spirit’s guiding hand so that we can better name where we are now.
Sometime today, friend, or maybe later this week, nestle into your own out-of-the-way place where you can be alone and silent for a time. Take a journal with you, your Bible if you’d like, and of course a pen, and open yourself to the Spirit’s leading with a simple prayer. You can borrow the one I’ve been using from Psalm 25:4-6 if you’d like.
“Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.” (NIV)
Linger in the silence a little longer than you think is necessary until the love and peace of Christ fill you and hush your harried heart.
Then, begin to reflect on the past year as well as where you are now. Take your time, ask the Lord to guide your reflections with His Spirit, and feel free to journal through these questions at your own pace.
Questions to Ponder & Reflect as You Discern Your Soul Season
What did you experience in 2022? What were some thin place moments – moments in time where the space between heaven and Earth felt thin and God’s presence came close? What were some heartaches? Joys? Victories? Failures?
What are you experiencing now, at this moment, with God?
What feelings arise within your body as you think about all this past year held? What word or words would you use to describe it?
What feelings arise within your body as you think about where you are now? Is there a word or a few words you could write down to name what you feel now?
Where were you at the beginning of the year? Emotionally? Physically? Mentally?
Where are you now?
What was uprooted?
What was planted and cultivated?
Where did the Light pour in?
Where did darkness hover?
As you begin to answer these questions, pay attention to what arises, what wants to speak, and resist the urge to judge it, condemn it, shame it, or change it. Simply observe, receive, and maybe let go if you feel led to.
The Welcoming Prayer
As you lean into this reflective practice with the Lord, with raw and honest truth, I have faith that He will begin to show you what season your soul is in. And I pray that as you come to the threshold of your own soul season, you would echo the heart posture of Father Thomas Keating’s words in his Welcoming Prayer.
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today, because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval, and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person, or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and God’s action within.
Earth has her seasons, and we know them well.
May we come to know ourselves well, too, and to see our souls as God so sacredly does.
Peace be with you,