I don’t think I really appreciated spring until I lived through a double portion of winter. I had just finished up a year-long internship with Cru in New Zealand, and in the southern hemisphere you experience the season opposite of what’s happening in the U.S. I left New Zealand in October, where we’d just begun to see signs of spring, at the end of a long, cold, Kiwi winter, and came home to full-fledged fall that quickly disappeared into another winter.
I moved to Champaign, Illinois soon after returning to the States and settled into an apartment with my best friend, Jen, who had also been with me in New Zealand. We had a ton of snow in Champaign that winter and I remember lamenting the cold with her as we dug our street-parked cars out of several inches of snow. More than once.
One week, probably some time in February, we were so desperate for sunshine and warmth we decided, against our better judgment, to go to a tanning bed. One way or the other, we needed to feel warmth. We needed to “see” sunshine. So off we went.
I don’t know if you can tell how fair I am from my bio picture, but it’s a pretty serious situation. I’m a pale-skinned redhead, and it doesn’t take much sun for me to burn. I knew this going into the tanning bed, and appropriately set my timer for a very conservative eight minutes. Yep. Eight whole minutes. But it was eight minutes of pure, warm, bliss. It might sound ridiculous (actually, it really is kind of ridiculous), but mercy, was it good for my soul!
The extremely long winter I had been enduring was finally interrupted, ever so briefly, but in such a satisfying way. I left the salon feeling like I could conquer the world, and then walked outside—back to winter. Reality was hard, but those eight minutes had served to buoy my soul in an incredibly real way.
Spring does that. It reminds us that winter really isn’t forever. New things are happening. Something else is coming. In all reality, spring is often a fickle friend.
(No, wait – it’s chilly again.)
The sun is shining!
(Well, almost. There’s a few clouds—and some rain.)
The flowers are starting to sprout!
(Ooh—one more frost before they’re really safe.)
It’s up and down and a little bit unpredictable. But the visible, tangible hope that spring cultivates buoys my soul. Sure, the weather may momentarily return to some of winter’s chill, but I’ve already begun to see spring. I know what’s coming. It helps me navigate those chills with a new perspective. A longing for what’s to come because I’ve already tasted it.
Living in Champaign that year was an interesting season of life in general for me. In the midst of the “eternal winter”, I was also navigating re-entry into my home culture, working a less-than-my-ideal job, floundering in a sea of unknowns when it came to a career path or a city to settle into semi-permanently, missing so many things about my Kiwi life, and stumbling my way through a super-long-distance relationship. The cold weather, inches of snow, and general grayness of the sky seemed to mirror my soul. I don’t ever think of my time in Champaign as an especially difficult season of life (praise God, there was so much good in all of the things I was working through!), but it definitely felt like winter. In nearly every aspect of my life, I was waiting for a new season. A new warmth. Sunshine.
There’s a beautiful picture of spring in Song of Solomon that captures the joy of a new season perfectly:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens its figs,and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.” Song of Solomon 2:10-13
This is the invitation of spring. “…the winter is past… the time of singing has come.” Let the promise of spring buoy your soul today!
Wherever you are and whatever circumstance you find yourself in – you know, that thing that feels like it’s forever? Your winter of the soul? It will eventually change. It’s not forever. This too, shall pass.
Spring is coming!