My heart longs for summer of the soul - a time when pollen is shared, fruit appears and bounty arrives. It has been near 4 years of winter. Four.Years.
Its been interesting to watch over time how people have responded to this stripped season of my life. Most have long tired of me by now: no longer the life of the party, seemingly choosing to stay in this darkest of places since I refuse medication, knowing me but not knowing how to take me, ever hanging on by my toenails. And why dont I just remove the issues from my life? You have choices, they say. Winter is a season most want to escape. Ive just chosen to sit (mostly) still amidst the barrenness and not add another layer to the issues. I get why many dont understand. But just like with the bees, I just believe there is more happening than what stings.
via Pottery Barn
A hummingbird flies close, searching for nectar. Apparently our sugar/water ratio in the feeder is off because landing is denied. Id love it if they lingered, made this their home. But they dont.
Four years. It has been long and lonely. Truly, like Psalm 88, darkness has been my closest friend. Somewhere deep inside I knew our move to Minnesota would be breaking. Somehow I knew the Pruning I would experience there would be without apology or even caution... and would cut to nothing all that gave nothing. I knew because I prayed long for it. I knew because I asked to be broken and for what was torn out of me to leave a hole so deep that it could only be filled by Him, that it could never be mistaken for anything but Him. I knew because I prayed that I would be changed first, before my husband or anyone else, that the Lord would not pass me by in the uprooting, the pruning, the growing. I knew.
But now I am exhausted from this winter of the heart. Winter, to the trained eye is the opposite of what it seems: its is nonstop work. Cyclical, forming work.
Homeschooling, marital knots and ever and always making ends meet have been the blades which have cut my branches. Otherwise said, our family has lived mostly in isolation over these past 4 years, which for the girls has meant leaning hard on me for every area of their life: physical, mental, spiritual and academic. Its funny though, regarding the girls and I, as our life has reduced, our relationship has enlarged. Its has a simple beauty and clarity about it which has never existed before this pruning. There is not one ounce of striving. There is no pretension. This is no idle chatter. There is just Hope and Thankfulness and lots of pain. And an acquired ability to cherish and inhabit the moment. What I desire and seek more than anything else is time alone, but this constant time with my children, this desperately hard for me pruning, is indeed producing fruit I never imagined possible.
I remember one of the most peculiar qualities (only because I had NO box for it) I saw consistently in older Minnesota women when we moved there was solidarity. They seemed able to endure quietly in a way I had never experienced. They were such an example lesson to me. At first I took them to be something near intentionally reclusive. What I have come to learn is what winter teaches like no other season can: to believe in what is not seen. It also teaches the discipline of waiting.
Winter is an internal season. Winters work, on the human front, is prayer. This long season has been my greatest teacher...though my capacity to believe has been strained almost to extinction. I have learned though to pray anyway - according to what I know of God, not what I see of God. Or to put it this way: my prayer is now anchored in Gods revelation of Himself in scripture, not in my firsthand experience in daily life. I dont pray because I can taste and see that the Lord is good. I have learned to pray in spite of the evidence at hand. There is no doubt that much of what I have tasted and seen over the years of my life, in every life season, has been bitter and much of what I have seen is darkness. Circumstances, many times, have eroded my faith rather than buttressed it. But this winter of my heart has taught me to push beyond my circumstances. I have learned to resist the temptation to equate circumstances with God. I pray not because God has been good to me but because Gods word says He is good. And to use a Minnesota phrase: Im betting the whole farm on that.
That, in my mind, is biblical faith. Everything short of this is a hedged bet. Everything short of this is based on what I can see, at least dimly see. And to the extent I can see it, it is not pure faith.
Winter grows faith pure. This bleak season of the heart grows almost nothing, but it grows biblical faith like no other season can. It combines the unique conditions that nurture the certainty of what is hoped for and the assurance of things unseen. That is the secret those elderly Minnesota women knew: there is always an assurance of things unseen...spring will always come. We endure looking always forward.
"Dont you care if we drown?" the disciples pleaded.
"Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" Jesus replied.
I do not know why winter has lasted so long for me. As the songs says, I would have thought by now God would have reached down and wiped my tears away. But He has remained silent. It is easy to look at my marriage and see it maimed so grievously that, if it lives through this season, it will be forever marred. God has allowed much more desperation than bestowal in these past years. But deep down, I believe that each deprivation is really cultivation. It is a maiming that is really a sculpting, a depletion which will become a source of abundance. I believe the pruning will give way, come spring, to a vigorous flourishing. But for now, it is maimed. And I sit still with it that way.
I also noticed the older Minnesota women didnt ever seem in a rush for anything. I moved and had my house unpacked and decorated, homeschool closet filled and a calendar bursting within a week. One woman there, our nextdoor neighbor, told me that simlply watching me made her tired. I was so insulted. But another good work of winter is learning to wait. Winter forces us to wait. And waiting forces faith to grow.
So I wait, unmedicated and sometimes despairing. But not always. I wait because I believe spring is coming and it wont always be this hard. I wait because making all kinds of ends meet is useful. I wait because I know there are certain lessons that can never be taught in the bounty of summer. I wait because I wanted to be changed, for Jesus to know me and for me to know Him. And I believe, just like with those disciples, Hes got bigger plans in mind. All Hes asking of me is to have faith beyond what I, or anyone else, can see.