Bitter cold. Sub-zero temperatures. Furnace can’t keep up. Layers and layers of clothes and still chilled to the bone. Winter can be cruel. It is a powerful force to be reckoned with and too often seems to win. Michael and I now understand the “snow bird” mentality. Get outta town, drive south….far, far south. Who wouldn’t want to escape the harsh realities of winter?

Lately I’ve been looking deeply into what I call the seasons of the soul. Winter is a difficult one. A season where things appear dormant, lifeless, hopeless, frozen. The soul is desperate for a break, for warmth, color, and signs of life. The days of gray seem to hover over everything zapping any energy that might have been present.

Winter tree As I write, I’m looking out the window at a barren tree. For all intents and purposes it appears dead, though I know it is not. Here in the north we expect deciduous trees to be bare in winter. It is part of a cycle, a normal time of dormancy for the tree to slow down growth to prepare for spring. Currently the tree is covered in snow and without leaves, but beneath the surface is a cozy blanket of earth providing protection and insulation to the most important part of the tree… its root. Though winter seems to freeze all activity, much is happening underground to keep the root healthy and alive.

If we live long enough we will encounter a harsh winter of the soul: questions that seemingly have no answers this side of heaven, deep losses, human injustice, imbalance to our human system of fairness, our own fears turn inward shredding any ray of hope. How do we get beyond the “If only….” or, “Why God?”

In truth, I want to be a spiritual snowbird…just fly south, far, far away to try to escape the harsh realities. Go where I don’t have to face the cold or numbness of my heart. But strangely, when we lived in Southern California we actually missed snow days. There was never a reason to slow down, so life raced on at break neck speed.

Experiencing the four seasons of life here in Indiana, why do I expect my spiritual life to always be summer? Why am I so surprised when I feel lifeless, fruitless, and barren? Instead of beating myself up, I am learning (definitely a process) to focus more on root care: going at a slower pace, taking time for reflection, evaluating what is below the surface, soaking in nourishment from God’s word and fellowship with others along this journey, and rediscovering where my true source of strength lies. Winter is not all bad. There are benefits to “snow days.”

Though the skies may be gray, God assures me that spring is on the way.


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