One of the things I miss living in the land of palm trees and ever-blooming bougainvillea, is being able to enjoy the four seasons. New England born and bred, I miss sprouting flowers and thick shade trees and fiery foliage and blankets of snow.
This year though I’m almost having a real New England fall. We’ve had lots of rain and moist cool mornings, and thanks to a stop in Gibraltar, for the first time we have a “real” small orange pumpkin [not to be confused with the huge greenish ones they sell here], plus a card from Lucy with an honest-to-goodness red maple leaf:
But most of the time we have one perfect day followed by another, cookie cutter days of blue sky and warm sun. Morning after morning, I wake to see a beam of beautiful sunlight and think it’s another day in paradise [at least weather-wise].
I have periods in my life with God like that, where I seem to be in a perpetual spiritual summer of fat fruit, pleasant fellowship, deep-rooted joy. But if I’m not careful, this can lead to the dangerous view that because I follow Jesus, it will always be summer. This triumphant kind of Christianity says that I should never experience a spiritual winter or fall. The sun will always be shining. It will never be cold or bitter. I’ll never suffer.
But even a branch attached to the vine goes through climate changes. It may suffer storms, droughts, blights. I can’t control my world; the rain falls on the just and the unjust. There is no magic greenhouse for those who follow Jesus to protect them from the elements. My spiritual summer can give way to a different, harder stage where life is not so easy.
Winter is a complex season. It’s a time of rest and contemplation but also a time of loss and waiting for greater light. It can be a long dark period when you wonder if spring will every come again. Triumph means simply staying attached to the crucified and risen Lord.
I’m going through a wintry phase now. I’m living off the bounty in the storehouse, remembering the gloried past, wondering about the future. But in the fallow season, the bare tree still reaches up to the sky, still looks for the light, still seeks water and nourishment for its roots.
I remind myself of what Jesus said: “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener…Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.” [John 15: 1, 5]