Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Long, Dark Winter

            You know, I’m gonna say something that’s not going to be very popular, especially as snow is pouring down outside right now, predicted to give us 8 extra inches.  Which will probably make the snow thigh-high for me.  But I’m really loving this winter.  I’m loving the deep snow.  (I don’t love the bitter wind, but it only really bothers me when I have to go shopping or pump gas.)  Oh, sure, I roll my eyes about the weather and gripe about “too much snow” when I am with other people; I don’t want to look fruity for being like, “It’s cool with me.  I’m liking it.”  But I’m glad there’s no sign of thawing yet.  Because I haven’t learned all the lessons that a deep winter offers.  And I need these lessons.

            I need to learn to accept and enjoy the forced rest.  And I need to accept being “put on the sidelines” when I’d rather be “playing in the game.”  Spring and summer are all about getting out there and doing stuff, running around and being all busy.  Accomplishing things.  Especially when it comes to my garden, which I am passionate about. 
            But there are seasons in life when God stops us from the “doing” and teaches us to just “be.”  And for me, that’s winter.  It’s when I can’t work on the yard or garden, can’t run around outside with the kids, can’t even really go for walks.  (So thank you, winter, for 4 extra pounds.)  But in a long, deep winter, there really is not much to “do,” so I have to learn how to “be.” 
            I have to learn how to be content with waiting and with feeling like I’m not accomplishing much.  I have to learn to be aware of and thankful for the hidden blessings of a time that is so dark and barren and lifeless.  I have to learn to be friends with the solitude because I can’t get outside much and talk to others.  I have to learn to be faithfully obedient in the small, everyday, boring tasks at home when I’d rather be doing something more fun outside.  I have to learn to just be with God in the moment.  In the deep, lonely snow.  In the dark months.  In the long waiting.  Just be content here and now, sitting with Him in the peaceful stillness!
            And that’s why I don’t think I’m ready yet for spring.  I’m not ready to jump back into the busyness and the “accomplishing.”  I still have more to learn about cherishing the resting, the waiting, the quiet, and the “not accomplishing.”  I still want to find more of Him in the winter: in the swirling snow and the ice crystals on the window and the little bird-friends that come to visit the feeders.  And I still have so much to catch up on inside the house that I thank God for this time of being shut-in.  Maybe by spring, I’ll have made a little dent in my To Do list.  Maybe I’ll feel like I did a good enough job with my household tasks that I’m ready to take on the outside.  But not yet.  I’m still working on doing the household jobs to the best of my ability for the Lord.       
            I don’t want to live like God is only in the warm springs and hot summers.  I want to be able to find Him and rest with Him in even the dark, long winters.  When it’s just me and the kids in the house all day, staring at the same walls every day.  Tackling the same piles of laundry.  Washing the same dishes over and over again.  Correcting the same math problems and asking the kids, “What library books have you read?” over and over again.  Because He’s here, too.  Waiting to be found by me, to visit with me, and to be praised by me, even in the dark times.   
            All winter I have been struggling with discouragement and feeling futile in all I do.  (I basically always feel this way.  I think I’m just a “rainy day and winter” kind of person)  But the other morning I woke up with the most delightful sense of God’s presence.  I felt like one might feel if they had lingered in God’s presence all night long.  Had my spirit been visited by Him while I slept?  I don’t know. 
            I just know that I felt free and at peace and content.  I felt like “It’s all good.”  Even though there is no change outside, no signs of life, no feeling like I am doing a great job at anything, I still felt like “It’s all good.”  As though God met me at night while I slept, patted my back and said, “Hang in there.  You’re doing fine in the long, dark winter of your soul.  Fine in this discouraging season of life.  Just hang in there; spring is on the way.”  It was the first morning in a long time that I woke up feeling like a huge burden wasn’t weighing me down.  And I cherished that feeling the whole day.   
            If I can find Him in the hard times, too, then there’s no reason to rush through any of the seasons.  Because there is something good – there is purpose and value and blessings - in all seasons of the year, just like in all seasons of life.  And the truth is we won’t be content with spring until we’ve learned to be content with winter, with 2 feet of snow on the ground and howling winds that keep us inside all day.  Because that’s how contentment works; it starts now or it never starts at all. 
            God and goodness and life and joy are here and now, waiting to be discovered and enjoyed, waiting to teach us lessons about our hearts and minds, about God and our relationship with Him.  So let’s not rush life.  Let’s not think that all the good stuff comes “later.”  Let’s not waste all of our energy planning for and dreaming about the next phase.  Let’s be sure to inhale all of the goodness of this season, before moving onto the next.  Let’s learn what it means to “just be.”