a soul’s winter

Carolannie/Flickr creative commons

trees arching over creek: Carolannie/Flickr Creative Commons

Two weeks ago I visited a nearby park I’d only yet explored in winter. I knew it as a quiet path with full view of frozen streams, rocky beds, bare branches, and dry, pale plumes of grass. This time, it was new. Twisting tangles of leafy things now veiled swollen banks and birds of all colors and songs. It was a wild place, and alive.

I had been waiting and looking for spring, but spring surprised me. I hadn’t expected the world to erupt with life. I had forgotten about frogs and crickets and birds and all the noise they make. I didn’t yet know how velvety the spruce trees look in the morning sun when surrounded with the sharp green of a newly leafed forest. The texture and variety of green in spring tells me something about abundant life, about the way the Spirit calls forth glory from the dead.

My soul has been in winter for many months. I had been waiting for a change of seasons—from Lent to Eastertide—expecting that Resurrection Sunday would plunge me into a rush of resurrection joy, a swollen, bubbling stream of springtime mirth. But this year, as we passed through Holy Week into Eastertide, nothing changed. I was deeply disappointed.

I came to the cross this Holy Week a mess of unmet needs. I was exhausted and desperate and expecting God to make me whole. But I got hurt there instead—not by my beloved Jesus, but by someone presuming to hear from him. And what I actually received from the Lord was not healing but an even greater awareness of a particular need I have—it was ringing in my ears. I felt a tender sweetness bidding me (oh the dear presence), but I couldn’t linger feeling so raw. I left Holy Week wounded and empty, and winter raged on.

Week after week, I fought for spring. I felt that God would be there, if only I could find it, find him. I wore a smile and a laugh like a tree that holds on to its withered leaves for too long. What tree makes spring for itself?

Hours before I visited the park I was sitting in church, alone. I had been scheduled to serve Eucharist that morning, but I skipped out. I was too exhausted. I knew I must rest. That day in church, I admitted the futility of making spring for myself. There in the pew, I breathed in deep and let myself ache.

Jesus was there, breathing deep too. I felt him invite me into his rest. We could hibernate together for the winter, just him and me. We could breathe slow breaths together. He would be enough.

That day at the park, immersed in a green and growing world, I saw myself in the trees and I understood. If I would feel the glory of sunshine filtered through newly unfurled leaves, I must open my hands and let my withered, rattling leaves fall. I must let winter be winter. Here, in winter, I will cease my striving for abundant life. I will rest. For rest is what the Lord has been offering me all along.


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