Right now the world is gray and faded; dirty snow piles line the streets and parking lots. Trees are bare. The sky is washed out. The air is cold. I hate it, quite frankly. I long for Spring--according to the calendar, it's only a few days away. In reality, Winter still reigns.
I've been stressed out lately--just a lot of things piling up on me. Then I look outside, and everything looks as bleak as I feel. Somehow it's easier to let things get to me when there is no beauty in the world.
But early this morning, I heard birds singing. Somehow it struck me. Such a simple thing, but it signified that Winter really is drawing to a close. And those birds know it. They know it's time for them to be back here, that soon the weather will grow warmer and things will grow again.
It reminded me of so many things. There is a song by Switchfoot called "412" which says,
You watch the sun riseAnd I felt that way. It was like I forgot that Winter can't last forever--it has no choice but to give way to Spring. This also reminded me of John Eldredge (as so many things do) and how he talks about our Soul's longing for Spring. He says,
You saw the darkness had no choice before the dawn
With your own eyes
And then you broke out laughing from a yawn
"I'm so sorry I've been so down.
I started doubting things could ever turn around.
And I began to believe that all we are is material.
But after the new year, things begin to drag on. Through February and then March, the earth remains lifeless. The whole world lies shadowed in brown and gray tones, like an old photograph. Winter’s novelty is long past, and by April we are longing for some sign of life—some color, some hope. It’s too long.There is this deep yearning in me for Life and greenness and newness and regeneration, and I long to see it not only in myself, but in the world around me. There are people who dislike that Holidays like Christmas and Easter are arbitrarily celebrated in conjunction with ancient pagan rituals rather than commemorating the actual date of the events. But this year, I realized something. God, in His sovereignty, allowed those dates to be used. The timing is quite perfect, actually. At least here, for us in this hemisphere.
And then, just this afternoon, I rounded the corner into our neighborhood, and suddenly, the world was green again. What had been rock and twig and dead mulch was a rich oriental carpet of green. I was shocked, stunned. How did it happen? As if in disbelief, I got out of my car and began to walk through the woods, touching every leaf. The birds are back as well, waking us in the morning with their glad songs. It happened suddenly. In the twinkling of an eye.
My surprise is telling. It seems natural to long for spring; it is another thing to be completely stunned by its return. I am truly and genuinely surprised, as if my reaction were, Really? What are you doing here? And then I realized, I thought I’d never see you again. I think in some deep place inside, I had accepted the fact that winter is what is really true . . . And so I am shocked by the return of spring. And I wonder, Can the same thing happen for my soul? (The Journey of Desire , 108–9)
Christmas brings light into the darkest time of the year. It's the bleakest, coldest, blackest time of the year--and what do we do? We light candles and hang up tiny twinkling lights everywhere. We use imagery of bright stars and shining angels. Because Christ came into the world, to be a light in the darkness.
And of course, Easter (more commonly known as Resurrection in my family, and now my church as well!). It is perfect as well. The juxtaposition of Death and Life--Winter and Spring--is a visual reminder of Rebirth and Resurrection.
There is something glorious in the Return of Spring, and yet it always surprises me how much I long for it. We were not made for death. We were made for Life--and Life abundant! And it seems like every year I need to be reminded of this. Some years more than others.
There's a Relient K song that I love, called "In Like a Lion (Always Winter)" which captures my feelings so well about wanting spring to come:
When February rolls around, I’ll roll my eyesThe other night I was flipping through an old journal, looking for something particular. I ended up reading many pages on which I had poured out my troubled heart. It was written during what I believe to be one of my darkest years to date. I cried out to God about so many things, but one stood out to me. I had been incredibly lonely. In college, I'd had a great group of friends; but in Pittsburgh, the only people I knew were my family. Once I wrote that I wished I just had a group of friends to go out with, get away for a bit.
Turn a cold shoulder to these even colder skies
And by the fire, my heart it heaves a sigh
For the green grass waiting on the other side
It’d be so nice to look out the window
And see the leaves on the trees begin to show
The birds would congregate and sing
A song of birth, a song of newer things
And everything it changed overnight
This dying world, you brought it back to life
And deep inside I felt things
Shifting, everything was melting away
And you gave us the most beautiful of days
Cause when it’s always Winter, but never Christmas
Sometimes it feels like you’re not with us
But deep inside our hearts we know
That you are here and we will not lose hope.
Immediately I thought of recent excursion to Seib's, a local Irish pub that has become something of a hangout for me and a few friends. The laughter and the warmth, the friendship--it had crept into my life after all. In unexpected ways, God answered my prayers. He brought new Life.
I believe that there is a longing in all of us for New Life. Perhaps it is closer to the surface at this time of year, when we are tired of cleaning off our cars and shoveling sidewalks and huddling under blankets. Maybe it's easier to recognize the longing of our soul when it's reflected in the world around us.
And into this Longing, God gives the best of gifts: the promise of new, eternal, abundant life. He even gives us a preview by raising Christ from the dead. Can anything be more amazing? Yet, isn't this the very thing that the world around us is proclaiming, shouting for all to see? There is Life to be found! The sun will shine again!
I'll leave you with one last quote, from a Steven Curtis Chapman song. He wrote it about Narnia and Aslan--which again echoes the Winter/Spring, Life/Death themes that we ourselves are facing:
And I'll watch as the cold winter melts into spring(That song always make me get teary. *sigh*) To, Spring, and to the Return of Life! Amen.
And I'll be remembering You
Oh and I'll smell the flowers and hear the birds sing
and I'll be remembering You, I'll be remembering You
And I'll watch as the sun fills a sky that was dark
And I'll be remembering You
And I'll think of the way that You fill up my heart
And I'll be remembering You.