“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.”
The weather has been a very popular topic of conversation lately. We are in the middle of a pretty harsh, cold, and snowy winter. Not my favorite. Not a favorite of a lot of people I have been talking to. Just about this time of the year, mid-January, I start thinking and dreaming about spring.
I love to garden and spring is my favorite time of the year. Come late January/early February, I start getting a lot of gardening catalogs in the mail. One of my favorites is the annual plant sale catalog from the Morton Arboretum. It comes out in February and every year I wait for it with great anticipation, hoping that some new and wonderful plants will surprise me with their beauty and make their home in my garden. Looking at the gardening magazines and catalogs makes me dream about what I could create in my garden that year. I spend a lot of time thinking about spring and making plans for it.
I look out at out my yard trying to remember what plants lie under the snow. Do I like the plants where they are—or most importantly do they like where they are? How do I make room for the all new ones I know would give new life to my garden? Which new plants do I invite in? Will there be a good balance? Nice color?
As I dream about the new possibilities in my garden, I am struck by the fact that dreaming, getting ready, anticipating, and hoping are things that we do so much in our lives. When we go through a spiritual winter, everything in us seems to be dead or sleeping, covered with an endless blanket of ice or snow. It is at this time that we dream of the possibilities of spring, new life, energy, and growth, yet we don't see a change. We know new life is there, we think about what it would look like once spring comes, but for now, it is winter and we are feeling the pain of longing for something that doesn't seem to come fast enough.
What I learned through the last season of spiritual winter in my life is that it is important to trust the process of winter. Do you know that the tulips cannot grow unless their bulbs have been exposed to the cold for a certain amount of time? If you just buy them from a store and plant them in pots indoors, they simply won't grow. They need to have been exposed to the cold (and darkness!) for 8-16 weeks to get the signal to grow. It is the stimulus of winter that gets them to grow in the spring. We, too, need to go through winter and be there for a while, in order to be ready to blossom when the time is right. Spitual winter is the time when we earnestly pray and seek God, but yet cannot see God's work because we are in a cold and dark place. Yet it is especially during the winter that new growth is being planted by God, when He is preparing the soil of our hearts and minds for spring. This is a time when we have to hold on to our faith—trusting that God is with us and that He is at work even when we cannot see or imagine it.
What is your spiritual winter? What do you pray for during this time in your life? Do you feel the seeds being planted or are you wondering if God is working at all? I pray that we can all keep toiling through our winters and hang on to our faith that God is preparing a beautiful spring.