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Ecclesiastes 3 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.

The medicine wheel may be the most important symbol of Native American spirituality today. As you can see above, it is simply a circle with a cross forming four quarters. Those quadrants have four colors, often red, yellow, white, and black. Various traditions might choose different colors, but they are never random. The colors always have spiritual significance.

Explaining the medicine wheel is like discussing the meaning of the cross. There are layers of meaning and tradition we cannot hope to cover here, but it is too important to omit.

We can start by saying the medicine wheel represents the seasons of the soul. It signifies a life in balance. It shows there is a season for all things and a time for every purpose under heaven.

The four quadrants represent earth’s four seasons. They also represent the four corners of the earth, and the winds from those directions.

It is remarkable how often the number four is used to represent the earth in sacred texts. Genesis says the garden of Eden was watered by four streams. Ezekiel saw four angels with the heads of creation before the throne of God. Those heads had four faces so they could see in all directions—a 360 degree view. When Ezekiel saw the valley of the dry bones, God told him to prophesy to the four winds to bring life. The books of Daniel, Zechariah, and Revelation pick up those same themes. In Matthew 24, Jesus says God will gather the elect from the four winds.

So it is with the medicine wheel. It is the cycle of new life, bearing fruit, fading, and dying; only to be born again. Ezekiel saw wheels within wheels within wheels. Those sacred cycles of life intersect in many ways. Each day is a medicine wheel of its own. Every relationship follows its own medicine wheel. Marriage is a complicated medicine wheel. A career also has its own life cycle. Parenting goes through all kinds of sacred circles.

Sometimes it is hard to keep all of those wheels spinning in the same direction.

As a pastor, I am called to counsel people whose hearts are broken. Sometimes they come to my office looking for comfort or advice. After listening and identifying their hurt I ask about their faith journey. Then I often hand them my medicine wheel. I explain about the seasons of the soul, and I ask what season they are in.

You see, nine times out of ten when someone comes to me in crisis it is because they need to move to a new season in their souls. They need a new start. They need a new direction. They need a resurrection.

But Easter never comes without Good Friday.

Sometimes that new beginning also requires us to go through the betrayal of Thursday. Our friends may desert us. People may lash out at us. We cry out in anger. It seems even God has forsaken us.

All of this is part of the journey of the medicine wheel.

We are trying desperately to hang on to the last shreds of our old plans and our worn out ways. Like a teen who does not want to the responsibility of manhood—or an old man who thinks he can still shake it like a teen—we try to keep God from moving us into the next phase of life.

Sometimes we would rather stay in the anguish of Gethsemane than to say, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” When we finally bow before a Higher Power, our lives are restored to sanity. We find a new season of the soul.

What season is it in your life? Where are you on your medicine wheel? Which wind is blowing through your soul?

The wheels are many and they intersect in hundreds of places, but they are all interconnected. They all influence each other. The wheel you show to the world may be shiny and bright, but you and God know what time it really is… And God knows when you need to move on.

O Creator, I confess to you that I often try to fool myself. I pretend that time is not fleeting. I want to be the ruler of my own eternity. Forgive me, and bring me full circle. Show me where to die, and how to live.