“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and it dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serve me, the Father will honor him.” ~Jesus~ (John 12:24-26)
A light mist hovering above the frozen field across the way yesterday morning was a breath of hope signalling the beginning of transition from the long cold winter into rising temperatures and the promise of spring. The air was crisp, yet warm enough in February sun to invite a longer pause before returning inside. After weeks of -20 nipping at our noses when we step outside, the shift towards a more hospitable climate was a welcome change.
Winter isn’t over yet, but milder days are a reminder of coming renewal upon the earth. Crocuses buried deep beneath the load of crusted ice and snow will burst out of dormant bulbs. We are invited to renew our expectation that the silent work in bulbs and seeds when days are short and footsteps moan in painful arctic winds on icy paths will come to completion and the cold will be dispelled. Winter, no matter how severe, won’t last forever.
And neither will the spiritual winters we experience at times.
Just as snow and ice and boots and piles of outerwear may start to feel like an endless wilderness, your soul may feel as if there is no end to the wilderness of apparent endings to the stories of your life which seem to be going nowhere. It may feel weighted under the snow of too many meetings, or the chill of unfriendly greetings, or the frosty treatment of one group to another as you navigate leadership issues. It may feel crushed by the compounding nature of both personal and professional snowstorms falling one after the other. It may feel frozen by wounds so deep as to wonder if they will ever thaw and be healed. And God may seem to be silent. Cold to our concerns.
That’s the honest cry of many of the psalmists.
But deep below the surface in the hidden grounds of our inner being, spiritual growth composts life-giving death to things we once thought to be of great importance but no longer need in order to respond genuinely and effectively with grace in each challenge. The Spirit is at work to move us out beyond the shell of old perceptions and ego perspectives holding us back from blossoming with new colour and vibrancy. In this place, battered souls are conformed to the cross. From this place, resurrection to the true self being grounded in his love alone blooms in purples of prayerfulness in union with him, golds of gratitude, and pure whites of walking side by side with those still embedded in the snow of winter fields to smile with the sweetness of his presence.
The harshness of winter breaks down our resolve to cling to those ways from which we’ve lived in the past in order that we might discover what is now necessary to more fully grasp how long and wide and high and deep is the love of God and to accept his invitation to live more fully in this great love ourselves as our consistent response to the world. We must die to self and lie surrendered in the struggles so we can re-emerge made whole in him to love and serve as though he loves and serves through us.
The winter of our soul may not be over yet. There may be more work to be done before spring completely arrives. But when we remain in the softening soil beneath the perfect storms which strip us of our need to hold too tightly to the past – even to good things which have brought us faithfully to this time and place of spiritual growth – glimpses of the dying and rebirth Christ calls us to spurs us on to leave the seed of ego self behind and poke our heads above the ground … re-found and whole in him.
“Spirit of the living God, soften the outer layers of our self-protective tendencies to release the full potential of who you have made us to be. Help us wait in trust when the frozen ground of winter walls reveal that all enduring growth comes by your gifting, your saving work in your perfect time. Help us rest in you as we test the truths embedded in our souls by the seed of your word and wait patiently for its fruit to be made more visible in us.
May the gentle rains of approaching spring cause new life to burst in servant hearts whose great desire is to bloom for you. And in those silent spaces when the heart cry seems to go no further than the depth of frost in which we sit, whisper hope of spring through whatever means will bring the realization that far from being cold to our condition, it is the warm energy of your endlessly present love which causes death to self and sets us free. Amen.”
Having composed a contemporary psalter of worship songs over the course of several years, I have begun to post these pieces on the main website in the prayer that they may be used of God for the building up of his people.
The psalms are songs for the heart which express the full range of emotions we experience throughout the seasons yet lead us towards praise of the God who is ever at work on our behalf in Jesus Christ to conform us to his image.