Yesterday was the first day of Spring. But to look around my little New England town, you certainly wouldn’t know it. Scattered patches of snow remain on the ground (with more expected today), and the world outside my window looks gloomy and gray. The air remains frigid, and the breeze delivers a sharp sting. Technically, Spring has arrived, but Old Man Winter isn’t quite ready to release us from his icy grasp.
Despite the Old Man’s insistence on lingering, we hear Spring off in the distance, softly whispering her promise of renewal. She bids us not despair. For even in the cold, dark days of winter, there is always beauty to be found. And should Winter’s dark skies and bitter chill make our hearts weary, we can rest easy in the certainty that Spring always returns eventually, bringing with her the promise of warmer, brighter days.
And as I sit in Winter’s freezing-cold clutches, I can’t help but see a message in Spring’s delay.
Old Man with a Message
I look around the United States – around the whole world, really – at all of the bitter divisiveness, all of the hatred and fear, and all of the ignorance, arrogance, and greed that unceasingly dominates the headlines. Violence and bloodshed ravish Syria and Yemen. Humans are being sold as slaves in Libya. Parkland and Austin are terrorized. Racial tensions are high. Economic uncertainty haunts an unprecedented number of us. Environmental change threatens all life on our planet. Deep-seated, shadowy corruption erodes the very foundations of our political systems. And our shared confidence in the institutions that so many (though certainly not all) of us once believed were benevolent is crumbling before our eyes. Dismayed and deeply disheartened, we treat each other with disrespect and disdain. Enough!
And I wonder is Humanity caught in spiritual winter?
I feel the cold deep in my bones as relationships strain under the stress of division and disagreement. The sting of icy sleet burns my cheeks as harsh words are thoughtlessly hurled at me in impatience and fear. Little sun can make its way through the dark clouds of fear, cynicism, ignorance and doubt, and the perpetual gray weighs heavy on my heart. And at times I feel deeply uncertain of our shared fate as I listen to the icy winds whip through the trees and relentlessly batter my place of refuge. Spiritual winter, indeed.
A True Test of Faith
Winter tests us with his dark, cold, harsh conditions, and this winter of the spirit tests us just as fiercely and relentlessly. But they both offer us moments of respite, too, perhaps to allow us to warm ourselves, to catch our breath, to ground into our strength, and to push forward toward Spring with renewed faith and determination.
Winter also has a gentle, delicate side to his nature. Consider the exquisite beauty and fragility of a single snowflake. It’s one of nature’s most delicate works of art, changed forever by a moment’s warm sunshine. Or the magic of sunlight breaking through the clouds to illuminate a fresh snowfall. Everything sparkles and shines as the light reflects off of the pristine blanket of white. Only in the midst of winter, in the coldest, harshest of seasons can we see such beauty. And surely, in it’s presence we can – we must! – maintain our faith.
Our spiritual winter brings us many moments that inspire faith and love as well. We need only look for them, and they begin to appear. Moments of love and connection, of humility and selflessness, of humble gratitude and deep sincerity. Even our anger and pain can be profoundly loving and selfless if we care to look at it honestly. The sun breaks through and illuminates our hearts from time to time, even in the coldest, darkest spiritual winter.
A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven
Every season of life serves a purpose. As I listen to so many friends and acquaintances express frustration with Winter’s lingering, I can’t help but wonder what magic they might be missing as they bemoan his presence. And I wonder then, if we’re being challenged now to embrace this winter of the spirit as best we can and to find whatever purpose and beauty it offers. I wonder if this is a test of our belief in Spring and all the warmth and bright, fair days she brings despite her apparent absence. I wonder.
Spring will be here soon, whether she takes days or weeks to appear. The snow will melt, the earth will thaw, and the sunshine and gentle spring rains will awaken nature from her slumber. Our spring of the spirit will come soon enough, too, whether she takes weeks, months or years to appear. While we wait, let’s find – and create – as much miraculous beauty as we can. Renewal is promised.
I saw a robin today. Spring is coming.