Winter. A season of painful exchanges: flip-flops for bulky jackets, warm breezes for
cold floors, the sound of crickets for the hum of the furnace, which, let’s face it, is basically the sound of money burning.
But the exchange that weighs on my body like a wet, wool coat, is that of light for darkness. Each autumn day, the coming winter snatches another two or three minutes of sunlight, replacing it with night. We wake in the dark, go to work in the dark, come home in the dark, eat dinner in the dark….
As of today, there are 53 more days of sliding headfirst into the abyss.
Big deal, you say. Well, for me the trouble usually begins in October. One day I’m my normal self and the next I can barely drag myself out of bed in the morning. After lunch, I fight valiantly – mostly for the benefit of my coworkers – to keep my eyes open and mind alert, lest someone find me slumped over and drooling on my keyboard. (not unlike this narcoleptic squirrel)
I empathize with our ancestors who, year after year, worried that the sun might sink below the horizon and never return. After all, they didn’t know the earth was round and on a tilt and hurtling through space around the sun. They thought the fiery orb, on which their lives depended, was going to disappear. Forever. No wonder they chanted and danced and sacrificed to summon the sun back up into the sky. (And as far as they could tell, it worked. Every single time. Wow, that sounds like the makings of a blog post right there.)
I may not need to chant. But I do have a therapy light, called a “Happy Light” – not even kidding – and if I sit in front of it for 30 minutes each morning, I feel better. I think.
But sometimes, winter still hurts. Beneath steel skies, leaves far past their youthful days give in to the relentless winds and let go, falling slowly to the earth. And I am reminded of cold, barren winters of the heart, of loss and grief. The winds blow through me and steal away my breath. The emptiness consumes. My chest feels hollow. Time does not heal all wounds.
Tell me something new. Tell me something of hope.
A few years ago, over Columbus Day Weekend, we New Englanders received the rare gift of four, sunny, 80 degree days. My husband and I spent one of those days working in the yard – weeding, trimming and getting ready for winter.
I pruned dead branches and leaves from our lilac bush, careful not to snip the buds that were already set for spring. Then I visited my azaleas and rhododendrons to do the same. As I stood gazing at the plump, promising buds, I experienced the strangest feeling – like God had pressed a pause button. Time felt suspended and my feet, unmovable. Around me, the bees and katydids buzzed, light and color intensified, the gentle wind brushed my arm. I could almost hear Him whispering, “Pay attention.”
Tell me something new. Tell me something of hope.
Have you ever experienced that instant when something you’ve seen or heard a thousand times suddenly becomes real to you? That day, it happened to me.
God had been cultivating the soil of my heart for that perfect moment when I paused and turned myself toward Him just enough, so that He could slide His shining blade beneath my armor, and quickly, skillfully, plunge a new, precious seed of truth into the furrow of my heart. The seed took root and filled my chest with a peaceful warmth. My heart, my mind, my body, all were still.
Warren Wiersbe said, “Nature preaches a thousand sermons a day to the human heart.”
I listened and my soul was stilled.
What truth dwells in the autumn bud of a spring-blooming flower! His silent message reverberated in my mind: Even in winter, we are never without the certain hope of spring. Before the first frost touches a single petal, before the biting winds blow or one snowflake falls, God places spring in the heart of his handiwork. On every bough, a bud; and tucked inside every bud, a flower.
I stood motionless, full of wonder and gratitude toward this God who knows my weaknesses, my fears, my doubts and yet does not roll his eyes or walk away. Instead, He meets me where I am, offering comfort and hope:
‘I know you are dreading the coming season, Nichole. But it won’t last forever. Look! I have already prepared the flowers for spring. See! Evidence! A sign of hope for you. My promise of spring for you.’
Nature declares God’s glory and through creation we catch sight of the Creator and of ourselves. Who is God, and who are we to Him, that He would not leave us to doubt or despair, but rather offer us a glimpse into tomorrow? What compassion! What grace! Before winter even begins, a glimpse of spring. As darkness falls and the storms rage on, a glimpse of hope, of heaven.
When I first wrote this blog post a few years ago, I was simply worried about the meteorological winter. I didn’t know that the coming season would be a deep winter of my soul – one of my darkest seasons, emotionally, physically and spiritually. But God knew.
One day, when I really needed someone to tell me something new…something of hope, I came across my previous post. As I read, I cried and cried and cried, because somehow, through His masterful planning and timing and revelation, God had managed to write me a love letter of hope and encouragement through my very own fingertips. Six months before I would need it.
No, time does not heal all wounds. The wind whips around my shivering bones, and frost settles on my skin…yet many long years ago, when my heart wandered in the darkness of an enchanted winter, God planted there the first seed…the Seed of eternal spring.
A ray of sun, warm and bright, pierced the darkness and slowly, the ice packed around my heart began to melt. The spell was broken, the endless winter ended. Though the coldness comes, its icy fingers have no hold on me. Yes, scars remain and sometimes, the pain still steals away my breath. But I rest in knowing there is no winter God has not written, no abyss beyond his reach, no one lost he cannot find, no darkness he has failed to light, no sorrow for which he has not prepared a Spring.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. ~ Romans 1:20