THAT’S LIFE: Embrace the ever-changing seasons of life
There’s a sinister teaching that afflicts us particularly as Africans — that we are to accept only the good out of life. Anything less means that we are not blessed, or worse, we have been cursed. It is a teaching that has crept into the mushrooming ‘prosperity’ churches and motivational movements. However, life teaches us a different gospel.
Take the life of Joseph in the Bible into account. Born the favourite son of his father Jacob, his brothers conspired to kill him, and then settled for a lesser sentence by selling him into slavery. And while he worked diligently at Potiphar’s house, he was falsely accused of attempted rape of his master’s wife and jailed for it. Every time things were looking up for him, the tide changed. He became accustomed to both highs and lows.
Promotions and demotions. Periods of waiting and periods of celebrating the achievement of a dream. There’s so much to learn from the life of Joseph. However, it is one particular dream that he interpreted that is of relevance to us today. Pharaoh had a troubling dream.
In it, he saw seven fat cows and seven malnourished ones. Before his eyes, the seven malnourished cows gobble up the fat cows. Pharaoh does not understand the meaning of his dream, and there is no one to interpret it for him in Egypt.
Except a prisoner rotting away in a dungeon, who has the gift of interpreting dreams.
Enter Joseph. He is brought in to reveal the meaning of the king’s dream. Joseph interprets the dreams: The seven fat cows represent seven years of plenty.
The seven skinny cows represent seven years of a famine so extreme that little can survive it. Joseph doesn’t just interpret the dream, he offers a solution. During the years of plenty, they are to store a fifth of the grain they harvest.
Pharaoh realises that there is no one better to champion the food security issue and appoints Joseph as prime minister. Eventually when the seven years of famine arrive, there is enough grain to feed not only all of Egypt, but also the neighboring nations. And that’s the way of life. There will be seasons of plenty and of lack. That’s the reality. But we are to be wise in our seasons of abundance and make provisions for the coming winters.
We do this in our financial life by creating reserves to buffer against retrenchment, a difficult economy or seasons when we are unable to work due to illness or accident.
In our health, we do this by making healthy living a way of life before old age sets in. Several weeks ago, when I had surgery, my quick healing and recovery in part was thanks to the active life I had led before. I was finally reaping the benefits of those early morning gym sessions. In our relationships, we are to make emotional investments into each other before we encounter trials that could easily bankrupt us.
The nature of life is that every life will experience summers and winters, sunshine and rain. However, planning for and buffering against those low moments makes all the difference in our ability to survive and thrive in lean times. Waiting until we are going through a difficult moment to figure out what needs to be done is a lack of foresight. Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that “Few people have any next, they live from hand to mouth without a plan, and are always at the end of their line.” Sadly, this is true not just in finances but in all aspects of life.
My grandmother kept a granary where she stored her surplus maize. Living at the mercies of the elements, with no fridges and freezers, she learned how to cure and dry meats and vegetables so they could last a long while. She did so in anticipation of periods of scarcity. How foolish I am as her granddaughter not to anticipate and prepare for the same. Going through a winter does not mean there is something wrong with me or you. That is just the way life is.