It's my favorite time of year (at least when living in North America). The days are slowly lengthening, the temperatures are slowly rising, and the death and decay of winter are slowly giving way to life and light.
As much as I dislike winter (ask anyone who knows me and I'm sure they will have a story to tell!), I am thankful for it in one sense: Winter allows me to see in the physical world a reality of the spiritual world.
This idea—that the physical world, with its joy and sorrow are meant to communicate something about the spiritual world—is coming more into focus for me. On some levels, it is easy to see and understand. When I experience the sheer joy of seeing my children laugh or play, or when I giggle in delight of draping purple wisteria, I know and believe the joy I am feeling is just a glimpse of an eternal joy I will one day experience. Thus my oft-used hashtag, #glimpsesofhisgoodness.
On other levels, though, especially in suffering, I have struggled much more to grasp that all of what we see during life on earth is to put invisible (and eternal) realities on display. The scales, so thick and so strongly adhered, are only starting to fall from my eyes.
If I approach seasons and situations with the firm belief that God is telling me something, that He has something about Himself He wants me to see and know, new meaning is brought to the experience. General revelation is just as divinely inspired as special revelation (see here for a beautiful description of both).
This firm understanding of how God reveals Himself and His ways to us is what allows men such as John Piper to be able to drink deep from the well of life and develop theologies we are tempted to snicker at, such as his theology of sleep, his conviction that we can and should drink orange juice to the glory of God, his theology of vacations, or his theology of Twitter, which you can read about here and here.
It is from that angle of thought I have pondered deeply, these last two years, on winter. Yes, I'll say it: I have a theology of winter.
I have many words to say, but too few minutes in which to say them, and so I'll simply share what has been percolating in my heart most recently, especially as my camera and I are drawn to the warm afternoons and budding bushes.
With every new blade of grass and every new blossom on trees, we're saying goodbye to winter. But, it's not just to the cold we bid farewell. If we allow Truth to work in our hearts, we can also bid farewell to fear of death. And if we can bid farewell to fear of death, shouldn't we also be able to bid farewell to any other fears that keep us from focusing on Christ?
And what a love we found Death can't hold us down We shout it out We're alive Cause you're alive
I'm thankful that if I have to experience winter, at least I get to do it in the northern hemisphere, a place that offers us me opportunity to experience spring—death giving way to life—during the Easter season. What a beautiful physical experience to help me better understand an eternal reality, namely that Christ wasn't held back by death (or anything less), and neither are we.
Just the other day, as the kids and I were outside enjoying one of our 75° days (sorry, not trying to rub it in!) I was looking at all the bushes in our front yard flaunt their new greenery, and I noticed a bucket behind the deck. In it were weeds and dead branches that had been pulled up last fall. But look! What we once took for dead is now triumphantly displaying its life!
Feel the darkness shaking All the dead are coming Back to life Back to life Hear the song awaken All creation singing We're alive Cause You're alive
As I march forward (pun not intended but oh-so-appropriate!) in this Lenten season, I want to remind myself at every opportunity that nothing could conquer Christ. And if nothing could conquer Christ, not even a brutal crucifixion, and if in fact I have been crucified in Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, then wouldn't this theology help me to understand that nothing can conquer me? Not death? Not fear? Not suffering? No. Nothing.
And though this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us... The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His Kingdom is forever.
No matter how bleak things look, whether in the "dead of winter" or in the "dark night of the soul," the light will shine again and death will give way to life. Even against all attempts to bind life and hope and grace from the world, they will, like a determined daffodil, poke through, laughing at the futility of confinement.
I know spring is still not yet for some. This maybe true seasonally or spiritually. Others are basking in the warm sunlight and smiling at the crocuses, planted before the icy cold, finally popping up. But no matter how much spring is your reality right now, think deeply on it. Don't waste your winter. Look around you and ask yourself what you can learn about God and His ways through what He has revealed—both in the delightfully created world and in the divinely written word.
There is much to learn as we watch death give way to life.
Lyrics from Your Love Awakens Me by Phil Wickham and A Mighty Fortress is Our God by Martin Luther.