14 April 2014

Springing Hope through the Cold Seasons

I grew up in a one-season place and never understood the big deal about spring.

Now, it means so much to me: the freshness, the warmth, the budding beauty, the rush to get outside. And with spring comes a reminder about new life--how a plant that seemed dead on our balcony burst open with orange flowers like it was yawning a bright and bold "good morning," how the earth responds to the return of heat and nourishing rain, how my own soul finds renewal and refocus in Lent and Easter.

So when I heard about "seasons of the heart" before living in a four-season climate, the comparison made no impact. Up until I was 18, I wore the same clothes year-round and picked a plumeria to wear behind my ear every single day.

However, now I can see how my heart goes through seasons.

I can put an image of winter coldness and the bare branches of a once-thriving tree to my dragging and world-weary heart. I can visualize myself watering that tree and turning it to the sunlight--to no avail in the winter months--as I continue in the same routine of church, Bible study, prayer, and accountability while feeling fatigue and an ache for the return of beauty, energy, and warmth.

Is this allowed? Aren't Christians--especially ones who live overseas and openly speak/blog of the gospel--supposed to live in an eternal summer?

Isn't it so comforting to read empathy in the Bible. As I wonder about my health, about my worthiness in service or in writing, I can remember the struggles of Elijah, of David, of Job, of Hosea, of Paul. I can remember Jesus' words about persecution and suffering and read the apostle's predictions of being rejected by this world and groaning for heaven.

These remind me that the earth is filled with the cold and stripping effects of sin--then turn my eyes away from introspection and back to hope.

For isn't that what gets us through winter?

It's when we dwell on the present misery that we feel like giving up. Our faith is hope. The Bible is hope. The culmination of all we believe--the realization of a righteous world and the establishment of justice and joy--comes with Christ in His second coming. It is in looking forward that we find the strength and grit to journey on. Hope.

But even in this elation, a question pulls me back: Why do I feel so alone in my struggle? Is it because no one admits the depression that lurks in the winter seasons? In missions and Christian service especially, is there an invitation for honesty when it comes to sadness, ineffectiveness, oppression, and spiritual warfare? How often do you hear a missions report of personal struggle or a pastor's admission of battled inertia?

To plow through the snow of a winter season, we need hope. But hope cannot flourish in us when we disguise our reality with good reports, newsletters of high statistics, or answers of "I'm doing great!" Just like anybody else--because we are just like everybody else--we need community. We need friends and supporters that don't only want to hear the good but also the difficult. We need honest conversations that don't deny the yearnings or cover up the sadness. How can we have hope if we don't have truth?

For spring will come. It is promised that God is near to the brokenhearted and the very Vine to which we ardently attach ourselves. He is ever-present, and new life will break through the ice. But lest we shiver and grow sick in the winter--
cling to hope
and, in severe and unreserved honesty,
cling to each other

Abide in Him,

To read more about hope, come join the conversation at Velvet Ashes' The Grove.
Related articles you may also appreciate:
When Social Media Disconnects You
Holding While Withholding
"I'm Too Busy" (A Lie)

1 comment:

  1. Consider the invitation for honesty extended. :) Velvet Ashes resonates exactly with what you've expressed here. We're not about pretending to live in eternal summers. We're about being open and honest and TOGETHER through the winter seasons too. So glad you're with us, Malia!


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