This is Part 2 of the series, Navigating the Seasons of Life. I’m writing this on a cold day in November, but we may be experiencing a season of Spring in our souls even though, in the Northeast, it’s growing cold outside.
In Rochester, the temperature finally starts to climb in April. You may even see 60 degrees some days, and nights, though certainly not balmy, aren’t frigid anymore either. It rains a lot and the rain is welcome because every downpour washes away more of the old, leftover, dirty snow. As snow subsides, something amazing begins to happen: you start to see little bits of color. Crocuses valiantly poke through the cold, wet earth, even as buds bring life to trees and birds of every sort emerge and start to sing again.
My favorite harbinger of spring is the forsythia bush. Nearly every yard has one because we all need that burst of bright yellow after long months of colorless white and grey. We still face some chilly days, but the forsythia tells us that warmer days will soon be the norm. Spring is a season of Hope.
When life is spring hope finally dawns. It’s been a year since the funeral and you just belly laughed for the first time in a long time. The cancer is in remission. The pregnancy test is positive. After six months, you’re still dating the same guy and you think you may be falling in love. Your teenager’s heart is growing softer and he even wants to go to church again. The worst of your divorce is over and you finally feel lighter as you start to rebuild your life. Your baby is actually sleeping through most nights and you have mental energy for just a little bit of creativity.
Spring comes when you leave the job you hate and the city that feels hostile, pack your bags and move into something new, fresh and promising. You took a risk and it feels right.
Spring finally came for me when I started hearing from God about marriage. He wanted me to fast from dating, and as I did that, I finally came to the point where I could say, “Lord, even if I never marry, I’ll be ok.” That felt so good! The desperation for a man had been such a heavy burden. And then, right on the heals of that, Marvin Doyley started pursuing me. I wasn’t sure if he was the one for me and God didn’t allow me to date him until my six months fast was up, but we became friends, and that fanned the flame of hope in my heart even more.
Hope dawns when you begin to see answers to the prayers you’ve been praying for a long time. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (Prov 13:12). In spring, the nausea of heart sickness fades and life starts to course through your soul.
Sometimes spring just comes. The answer breaks through. The suffering stops. The storm ends and the rainbow appears. But sometimes spring only comes when we take a risk. We actually have to make a choice that winter has dragged on long enough and it’s time for a change. We have to take off the heavy garments and step into the warmth.
Ruth took a risk when she chose to take Naomi’s advice to lie down at Boaz’s feet in the middle of the night (Ruth 3:1-6). What if someone saw her or if he got the wrong idea? But Naomi saw signs that the hard days of widowhood and gleaning were coming to an end, and Ruth herself needed to take the first step.
Esther took a risk when she appeared before the king, though he did not summon her. He could kill her right then and there, or he could listen to her and have mercy on her people. She had to put her life on the line and take a risk to find out.
You may be in a winter season (see the related article, When Life is Winter) and that is perfectly fine and appropriate. You need this time to mourn, to pull away and to be quiet. It’s a time of survival and healing for you. But it may be that you’ve lived in that season long enough and it’s time for it to end. And it may be that only you can end it.
The thing about winter is that it can become comfortable. It’s common for people to gain weight during the cold months because it’s too chilly to do much outside. We may become sedentary and eat too much as we indulge sitting in front of cozy fires. In a spiritual winter, we settle into introspection. When we go through something hard, it’s natural to be self-absorbed as we seek God to heal our hearts, but at some point we have to open our hands and hearts and start giving again. And we may have to take a risk to kick-start this process.
You’ve been unemployed for a long time and God shows you that you need to go back to school to be more marketable. Your husband has agreed to marriage counseling, and God is asking you to invest in your marriage again. Everywhere you turn, God seems to be talking to you about foster care or adoption instead of spending more time waiting for a biological child. You have an epiphany that this man you’re dating is toxic and God wants you to break up and trust Him for something better. You hate your job so you apply for another, which pays far less but you’d be doing something you love. Risk, risk, risk. Sometimes we have to take a risk to step into spring. But the question is, how badly do we want it?