“Pray to God for rain – it’s time for the spring rain – to God, the rainmaker, spring thunderstorm maker … God-of-the-Angel-Armies will step in and take care of his flock, the people of Judah. He’ll revive their spirits, make them proud to be on God’s side… God will use them in His work of rebuilding… I know their pain and will make them good as new. They’ll get a fresh start, as if nothing had ever happened. And why? Because I am their very own God, I’ll do what needs to be done for them. The people of Ephraim will be famous, their lives brimming with joy. Their children will get in on it, too – oh, let them feel blessed by God!
I’ll whistle and they’ll all come running. I’ve set them free – oh, how they’ll flourish! Even though I scattered them to the far corners of earth, they’ll remember me in the faraway places. They’ll keep the story alive in their children, and they will come back. I’ll bring them back from the Egyptian west and round them up from the Assyrian east. I’ll bring them back to sweet Gilead, back to leafy Lebanon…
But my people – oh, I’ll make them strong!”
I hate winter. I don’t find anything romantic about ice and snow, or the sun going to bed before dinnertime. Cold, slush, more cold, darkness, not being able to feel my fingertips, having to pull a Cirque du Soleil maneuver to warm my toes under the hand dryer in a Starbucks bathroom… NOPE! I am willing to trade you every mug of hot cider I’ve enjoyed and all of my fancy scarves for sunlight and green leaves. I long for flip-flops and Tigersblood snow cones.
How odd that I put more trust in Mother Nature than I do in God.
I know that spring will inevitably arrive; whether she’s ushered in as a lion or a lamb. No matter if Puxatawnie Phil sees his shadow or not, and even if a basket of flowers doesn’t arrive at my doorstep the first day of May… spring will come! It must!
But there have been moments, months, sometimes even years in my history where I doubted God would return spring to my soul. As those years seemed to stretch on unending – winter’s architecture of icicles and show drifts matched my insides.
What was dark kept getting darker. What was a charcoal shade of gray deepened to an inky black, and as time went on and on (and on) both the sun and the Son seemed to hibernate.
Sadness is real. It is just as real as the situations and tragedies that bring it about. It cannot be ignored.
If only we could learn how to bottle up the extra rays of summer to crack open on the coldest days. If only we could hide away joy; so we would have something to plant on the inside when all growth is choked out.
There was one year that was particularly iced over and as the months of winter flurried outside the windows & inside my spirit, it felt as though I was dragging my body along like a mortician wheeling in a new client. I was moving without thought. I functioned enough to get by, get my shoes on, get the car into the correct parking space, get the paycheck, get to church on time, get the presents wrapped, get the smile perfectly tilted for the photos, but I was simply surviving.
A friend of a friend invited me to a new church; it was an hour away but I joined him one Sunday morning. I sat nervously, assuming that this church visit would be another disappointment. Though the heat was out and I trembled next to a drafty window in my favorite velvet blazer, something warmly vibrant and alive caught my attention.
Something was different here. This wasn’t a group of grandparents whose heavy eyelids hid dreams of pot roast after the service. This wasn’t an auditorium full of angst-ridden teens who were texting their way through an hour of sitting still. This was a few hundred people who WANTED to be there! Who listened intently as they flipped through worn pages of the Bibles they hadn’t forgotten. There were hands in the air during worship and heads bowed in prayer. There were silent tears streaming during communion and rejoicing with the truth. As I went back week after week I saw faces that reflected brokenness sitting in the balcony and hearts that reflected brokenness behind the pulpit.
At some point, as these people continuously basked in & doled out God’s love, I started to thaw.
The numbing cold was dissipating. I was being loved in spite of myself. I was being pursued. And I kept coming back. And after a series of incredible washouts, six more weeks of sorrow, I yet again threw myself into autopilot and schlepped my feet to small group. That evening I was asked to give my testimony.
I realized my options were to share the oft-recited version of then – a tween saying yes to Jesus at a DC Talk Billy Graham crusade concert combo, or I could choose the awkwardly honest version of NOW… I could tell a group of mature believers that I didn’t believe God loved me. I could whisper that I doubted, that I lived in fear, thatI spent my life constantly proving commitment in a loveless marriage with Him.
I told the truth.
A friend held my shaking hands as tears soaked my sweater. I stared at the floor as I spoke without humor or big words. A chill began at my toes and crept to the ends of my hair. I expected everyone to cough or stare at each other and try to transition to another subject. But that’s not what happened.
Right then, winter came to a close.
My friend Adam asked if he could pray. I silently shook my head “yes.” For almost an hour, a dozen people took over carrying me. But instead of dragging my lifeless body to an unloving judge (as I had been doing for years) they carried my scared heart before the only God that can hear, the only God who can heal.
I began to physically shake more violently, I hated that I needed the help, but I was so thankful, so beyond words thankful. Humility swallowed me whole. So undeserving, I listened to what LOVE sounded like. Adam prayed that true bonds of friendship would be forged, and that people would remain sensitive to that very real sadness even if it wasn’t solved in a month or another year! Jesus was palpable in that living room, He had never been so real.
In the next few weeks, I had to start digging the sunglasses out of my purse on the drive to work. I was able to roll the windows down and leave the heater off. I smelled fresh lavender ease through the air and my eyes almost stung at the greens & purples & yellows so bright it seemed I’d never seen them before. I woke up to the sun and tucked my coat away in the closet. As I caught myself in the rearview mirror, spontaneously grinning on a bright Thursday morning, I wondered what had caused it. A still small voice spoke gently and undeniably to my heart…
“MY LOVE… SPRING HAS COME!”
(an edited excerpt from my book ‘An Unwilling Gypsy’)