I looked around as we drove a country road a couple of weekends ago. The dry, short, pointy remains of corn stalks harvested in the fall poked through the snow, covering the open fields. The trees were bare, having shed their fiery orange leaves only a few months prior, but now, it seemed so long ago. Indiana was a canvas painted only with shades of brown and white.
I thought to myself that I didn’t mind winter too much anymore. For one thing, I braved five Northern Indiana winters in college and in our first year of marriage. You wouldn’t believe it unless you lived in both places, but lake effect snow is so much worse than what we get in Central Indiana. For another thing, I don’t work full-time anymore, so I don’t have to worry about leaving an extra hour early on snowy or icy days for my rush hour commute to Indy.
But most of all, I don’t mind winter so much anymore because I know it’s just temporary. I always have the hope that spring is coming again. As I looked out over the open fields and the bare trees, I envisioned those fields full of tall, green stalks of corn. I remembered what the trees looked like in the spring, budding with bright shades of white and pink and purple. I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that these dead things would come alive again, and I was hopeful, because I knew that no matter how long winter seems to last, there is always the promise of spring. It comes every year without fail.
The next weekend was Valentine’s Day. I was subbing at the school where my husband teaches on that Friday, and the Honor Society was selling roses that could be delivered to your Valentine in class. My husband sent me a white rose–my favorite kind (except for yellow…and those peachy colored ones…so one of my favorites!). It was delivered in a class full of sixth-graders, who, knowing that I’m married to the Spanish teacher, still wanted to know who it was from. One boy asked, “Is that from Hayden?!” I replied, “Yes, it’s from Hayden, whoever that is.”
The rose already looked limp and half-dead when it was delivered. Several students came up to the desk throughout the day advising that I put it in water. However, I didn’t want to mess with scrounging up some sort of glass or vase from the school. It was the thought that counted, and like I said, it was pretty much already dead.
We stayed after school to work a high school basketball game in the evening. After school, we decided to put all of our belongings in the car, including my rose, so that we wouldn’t have to waste any time packing up to leave after the game. I should mention that it was something like five degrees outside, so I knew for sure that rose would be dead when we got home!
As we wearily drug ourselves and our bags through the door when we got home, Tony asked if I would like him to get a vase out for the rose. I told him it didn’t matter, that the rose was already dead, even though I really appreciated receiving it at school. It was just a shriveled, terrible looking thing.
“I’ll put it in some water, anyway,” he said. “Maybe it will perk up.”
The next day, the rose was standing tall and straight, and it had begun to open up. Over the next couple of days, it only got bigger, fuller, and more beautiful. I couldn’t believe it. Here it is, February 25, and that little rose is still looking beautiful.
It is so difficult to look at something so dead, so far gone, and believe that it could actually come alive again—and not only come alive, but thrive.
The past year has been a really hard one for us. We thought for sure these struggles would be over by now. It seems like we’re living in an eternal polar vortex, Boston winter—as if we just keep getting heavy snow dumped on us, and as soon as we think it’s over or we’re getting a break, here comes more snow. It seems like we’re always digging ourselves out, and many days, I think, “Why keep digging when more snow is on the way?”
But I still have hope, because I know spring is on its way. What would be special about spring if it didn’t follow winter? We can bear the heat of summer because we remember how cold it was in the winter, and we’re grateful for sunburn over frostbite. We love the fall because, even though we know it means winter is coming, now is the time to soak up the last of the mild days and pick apples and pumpkins. The color of the leaves amazes us so, we forget that they’re dying. The excitement of the holidays pulls us through the beginning of the cold.
The winter always comes, as sure as the spring to follow. We can’t avoid it. We can’t skip over it, unless we are rich and have the money to fly south for the winter. We have to wait it out. Since we must go through it, why not play in the snow and enjoy having to stay in without having to rush around, without the ability to rush around?
Nature is such an astounding way for God to teach us about our own lives. Life has seasons. There will surely be winters, but there will also most surely be springs. That keeps me hoping in the midst of digging, which often consists of simply getting out of bed every day. That alone in this season seems like a victory. The memory of the summer—of days when we thrived and laughed and things were bright—keeps me hoping. The dream—nay, the promise–of spring and what it could bring keeps me believing. The thought that winter won’t last forever–even if it’s a very long, harsh winter this time around—keeps me going.
My very wise friend Charity recently posted this status on her Facebook, and it inspired and encouraged me:
“So the LORD said that when we pass through the waters, He will be with us and when we walk through the fire, we will not be burned…He never said we wouldn’t get soaking wet or it wouldn’t be extremely hot.
Well, that certainly clears up a lot of ‘whys’ about life experiences.”
I write this as much for myself as I do for you, hoping it will encourage you and that you will join me in this hope and in this declaration: I will cling to God in the deep waters, in the fire, in the heat, in the cold, and in the winter, even if it’s by the skin of my teeth. I will praise God in the summer and in the spring and when there’s life and sunshine. His presence is enough to sustain me.