if winter offers no answers

IMG_6099I lay down on the concrete, cat-like in finding the perfect spot for sunning in late January’s taste of spring. Ridley joins in as he perches beside me, scanning gaps between fence posts for signs of passerby activity.

My soul needed this weekend, as I am sure yours did, too.

In no time at all, the coats and gloves will stow away for the majority of the year. Tulips and daffodils will be the forerunners of Spring’s arrival, shooting through crunchy grass to trumpet her arrival.

After today, I expect Spring will hit the snooze button and fall back asleep for another six weeks, but her 65 degree stretch-and-yawn this weekend gives me just the hope I need – the reminder that winter doesn’t last for forever.

We all want that reassurance when we find ourselves in a season we would rather not remain in. Just a glimmer of what’s coming to give us strength to endure the winter for a little while more.

So what do you do when you don’t sense that glimmer, when the cold and gray envelopes you with no promise of letting go?

How do you find hope when none is offered? How do you live in the tension of what you are trusting is next and the reality of where you are right now?

I’ve struggled to write about this because I honestly don’t have the answer.

I’ve pondered and processed how to fight with hope against the cynicism of “it’s never going to happen” or “this is the way life will always be,” while also surrendering my heart to “not my will but Yours be done.”

And the best answer I have come up with is that it’s not a black and white thing, which is hard for me to accept – but which I am noticing the Lord wants to remind me of more frequently these days.

I am a self-aware legalist, thriving on rule-following and clear-coated ethics and knowing without a doubt that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. I am Nicodemus in John 3, asking the Christ for the 1-2-3’s on how to ensure my rightness with Him, finding the idea of “being born again” too odd and unattainable.

How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?

How can I trust You completely with my desires but protect against hurt? What is the secret to avoiding depression, grief, misplaced hope? How do I wholeheartedly follow You where I don’t think I want to go? How do I communicate honestly, tell You what I want, without being demanding or selfish or resistant to Your plan?

I am learning that my perspective, like Nicodemus’s, is wrong.

I so badly want to handle life “the right way” or “the way I should” that I miss the gift of God’s grace. I falsely think that spiritual maturity means growing to need God less and less the way we grow apart from our earthly parents – Look, Mom and Dad, I’m all grown up and filing my taxes without your help! However, I once heard someone say that spiritual maturity actually means that we grow to acknowledge our need for God more and more. It’s not about being able to stand on our own two feet but, instead, frequently falling in God’s arms and allowing Him to be our stable place, our rock.

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Psalm 62:2)

I am not shaken because of Him, not because of what I in myself am capable of.

I find my assurance not in how well I follow a checklist but in how well I know Him and accept His love for me.

So back to having hope but not being devastated in getting my hopes up.
To living in the tension of God’s goodness but God’s unexplainable purposes.
To how I am “supposed to” handle this spiritual and emotional season of winter.

I am humbly recognizing my need to let go of looking for the answers to my questions and instead look to the truth of Who God is, regardless of my circumstances. Not that He isn’t a God with answers, but sometimes He asks us to trust without the explanation we are looking for.

And He wants us to acknowledge that we are a mess and that we need His help, because, the truth is, we don’t handle life the right way. While I am feeling lost right now, I am taking comfort that He is present as I sort through what I don’t understand. His grace covers my continual shortcomings, my frequently incorrect thinking. His grace covers my pain and my lack of faith.

I am so grateful for this weekend, but I know that Spring doesn’t always show herself in January. When she doesn’t, when she remains in hiding, it doesn’t mean that she is no longer coming. It simply means we must continue to faithfully wait, trusting a Creator Who sets purposes in motion even if they are first buried beneath the surface of a frosty ground.

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