In 1934 George Gershwin composed the aria, “Summertime,” for the 1935 opera, Porgy and Bess.The lyrics are credited to both DuBose Heyward who authored the book, Porgy, from which the opera is taken, and also Ira Gershwin. The opening line paints a picture of what we think of and hope for when summer comes − “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy” −…a change of pace from the hectic days of other seasons.
Whether we are someone still in school looking for that wondrous summer vacation, or an adult hoping for a time at the beach or in the mountains, we hope for days and evenings to slow down. We imagine tall glasses of lemonade or iced tea, the smell of meat cooking on the grill, a fire to gather around while we make s’mores, and the sparkle of fireflies competing with stars to light up the summer night sky.
We look for a great new novel to enjoy at our leisure and watch for ads to farmers’ markets to get the produce that exceeds the quality of what we find in our local grocery store. We look for which musicians are heading to an outdoor venue near us. We dream about juicy berries and melon, crisp corn on the cob, and homemade ice cream.
We like to recall times in childhood when we experienced those and want to savor such times again, but summer doesn’t always give us what we want.
More and more structured summer activities start lining up on our calendar; the weather turns gray and rainy, something happens to adjust those vacation plans, and poison ivy and summer colds refuse to skip over our family.
Challenges of all kinds have never heard about what summer is supposed to be about. Illness still happens. Death doesn’t’ take a vacation and our boss doesn’t let go of his expectations for the new project that needs to be completed in two weeks.
News headlines don’t let up on a bird’s eye view of the chaos breaking out in every part of the globe. Headlines scream at us about minor and major tragedies in places we have heard of and others we didn’t know existed. They can easily stir up fear, anger, and hopelessness for a better world.
We want to enjoy summer as Nat King Cole sang about, “Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer…” We want to sit on our patio, porch, or deck and let our minds drift with no particular place to focus. We want to drift along on a stream in a canoe while we watch the leafy canopy above our heads cast shade and shadows on the water and us.
We want sunshine and cloudless skies in the summer because we often realize that we have allowed weariness to squash our wonder at the beauty around us. Such weariness was born from lack of rest and too much of everything happening most of the time.
What happens to our spiritual moorings in summertime? In our yearning to drift along and relax without a lot of structure, does our spiritual life drift as well?
Do we forget that the things we see with the natural eye point to the unseen spiritual warfare going on about us throughout the world?
Time and again scripture reminds us to stay alert and that if we drift, we can get off course. The writer of Hebrews makes note of that in reference to salvation in Hebrews 2:1, but I think the author’s words can have a broader application as well.
“This is why it is so crucial that we be all the more engaged and attentive to the truths that we have heard so that we do not drift off course.” Hebrews 2:1 (TPT)
Summertime is a seasonal gift the Lord gives us to enjoy, but it doesn’t come with any guarantees to fit our desires or definition.
So when the rain won’t stop, look for Him beyond the clouds where his light is always shining. When illness keeps you down and the news is empty of hope and when all our plans fall apart consider this:
“Once you learn that you can never really plan your destination, you stop worrying so much about the map.”
Lisa Wingate in The Language of the Sycamores.
Not losing sight of the Lord or his truth is the best way to assure we will find joy in the season (even if it doesn’t meet our expectations). If we are his and He is ours, our ultimate destination is set and perhaps we can let go of the unexpected stops or detours along the way. Nothing can satisfy our need for rest and refreshing as He does.