I’m usually a winter wimp. In the days between Christmas and the first daffodil I often whimper and whine and throw tiny tantrums because of the cold, the snow, the sleet, the slush. But this year, I decided since I can’t change winter, I should change my tune.
To that end, way back in October when the Midwestern air was warm and the sun shone bright I announced to the world, “This year, I’m embracing winter!” And I set out to do just that. I thought God must have overheard and been quite pleased with my decision because the warm weather lasted well past Thanksgiving. I began to wonder if God had canceled winter altogether, on account of my sunny new attitude. And then…
Winter always comes, and this year has been no exception on these vast Midwestern prairies. Cold and harsh and bitter and biting are the days I’m living in now. Yes. Even embracing. Because I’ve discovered the key to surviving while slogging around in the slush is having the right equipment to keep me warm. A down coat with a hood, weatherproof boots, long johns, a hat, a scarf, and – most importantly – mittens.
I learned long ago that mittens are warmer than gloves. Gloves separate my fingers, but mittens keep my fingers together, each one sharing the warmth of the other.
Spiritual winters come, too. Those days when the climate turns our hearts dark and cold and slippery with ice, threatening to knock our feet out from under us and land us on our tailbones, wondering how we got there. Or if we’ll ever get up again. In those days it’s natural to want to turn away from fellowship with others, to cocoon in gloves made of worry or grief or anger or fear, our hearts getting colder tucked away in the dark.
We think that wrapping ourselves up all by ourselves will keep us warmer, but the opposite is true. Because we were not meant to do life our own. Especially when life gets tough and the landscape becomes unrecognizable in the battering of winds that drift and shift and reshape what once was familiar.
My fingers warmly wiggling in mittens remind me of the importance of living this life in community with others. Faithful and faith-filled ones who share the warmth of the Son when winter chills my soul to the bone. When I’m slogging around in spiritual slush I’m reminded that God has given me the right equipment to weather the storm. He has pointed me to others who have stared down their own personal winters.
Are you slogging through? Your body bent against horizontal winds? Lean into the fellowship of others who have weathered the storm. A Bible study, a Sunday morning worship service, a prayer group in your town. Bask in the worship of those who’ve made it safely through to the other side of winter. Bow your head and close your eyes.
Listen to prayers whispered from hearts made stronger because of the howling winds. Breathe deeply as ancient and sacred words are shared…the Word that gives life and hope and peace. Take courage in their witness to the truth of spring, and the promise that He makes all things new.
All things. New.