On the Other Side of Winter
There's something about the trees this spring. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s just early in the season. Or maybe it was our unusually-harsh, Northwest winter. But this year, I can’t help but notice the blossoming trees. They’re different this time around the sun.
Usually, the pallets of pink and white flowers, the green blossoms, and the other spring-shades that color the trees draw my attention every year. With winter past, barren branches stand covered in color. But that’s not what has my eye this year.
This early-spring, those flowering trees are a little sparse. And I like it. Their branches find themselves mingled with delicate blossoms, not hidden by full color. The blossoms, sprinkled on many a tree, showcase their branches. It’s the branches, highlighted by budding color, that keeping catching my eye. As I find myself on the other side of a wintery season, they’re speaking volumes to me.
Winter in the Pacific Northwest was a rough one. Actually, nearly everyone in the states could say that. Words like harsh, unrelenting, and endless come to mind. When the first calendar day of spring came around, it seemed like a cruel joke. Even those of us who are fond of the frequent rain in the upper left, were pining for just a little sun-derived Vitamin D.
The dead of winter weighs on the soul too. Dreary and cold blend together to create a gloomy shade of grey. And when grey tints your upward outlook for long enough, you realize you’ve altogether forgotten what the sun feels like to the touch. Sometimes wintery-soul seasons feel this way too.
Winter brings wind and rain, ice and awfully cold temperatures. Ice storms plagued our winter, and it took a toll on our blossoming, deciduous trees. Ice weighed heavily on them for days. Some tree limbs could only bear up under the frigid weight a few hours, while others endured days before they snapped. Limp branches and defeated tree limbs littered our yards and streets for weeks.
Trees, caught in the dead of winter, have one option before them. They cannot run, pick up their roots, and escape to a tropical location. They don’t retreat indoors, huddling by a fire while they out-wait the passing storm. They weather the storm. That’s all for them to do.
On the other hand, we have the greater luxury of choice: to embrace the process in the season or escape in our foolishness. When we find ourselves in wintery-soul seasons, we can run and hide, avoid the issue, or strive to work our way out of it. Though that road only leads to our detriment and anemia. But there is a way of the wise through the winter: they choose to weather the storm.
Weathering the storm | That’s not to say we’re to sink into a depressed stupor, retreat in isolation, and get lost in our dreary outlook. Rather to weather the storm is to trust in the Faithful One, remaining steadfast on God’s Word when the dead of winter only brings silence. To weather the storm is to submit to His process of healing, albeit intangible, while refusing to shortcut His process. It’s to believe His goodness, press in and stay close, even when spring isn’t in sight.
When the storm has passed, we may find that we’ve lost a few limbs along the way. That’s okay – it’s just a sign we have a Faithfully Good, Skillfully Wise Gardener. We’ll find our roots have pressed down deep to find underground streams, and we’ve relied on the nutrients stored deep within, from our Eternal Source. On the other side of winter, we’ll see how above the grey canopy that clouded our vision, the sun still stood. And on the other side of winter, we’ll find ourselves sturdy. Sturdy: rooted, grounded, unshaken, weathered but stronger than before. We’ll find our dead weight pruned and removed; we’ll be free and ready for fruitfulness. And there’s that scripture that talks about how God comforts us, so we can comfort others in any situation. The beauty of winter-weathered souls and branches that outlast the winter, is that they become a source of strength and stability to others in all circumstance and seasons. In branches, birds and creatures find homes to nurture their young. Others run under their shade for shelter. The sturdiness of soul benefits those around us too. That sturdiness looks like confidence in the faithfulness of God, because in deep winter we allowed Him to make us whole. And that’s what I find so captivating about our trees this spring. They blossom. They blossom, but not like before. Their blossoms, sparser then past years following milder winters, display the trees’ greater grandeur. The intermittent blossoms show off the branches that weathered the storm with a proven strength. And they’re beautiful.
Next spring, our blossoming trees will likely recover, bringing us the vibrant bouquets of flowering branches we love each year, and hopefully so! But the winter-weathered branches will still stand sturdy, and I’ll be looking for their strength between the blossoms.
If you find your soul weathering winter at its harshest, don’t give up. Press in deep, weather the storm, believe His goodness, and receive His grace. On the other side of winter, we’ll see He does all things well, and we’ll be found sturdy.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”