Friday, January 28, 2011

Winter of the Spirit

"We planted the seed while the tears of our grief soaked the ground
The sky lost its sun, and the world lost its green to lifeless brown
Now the chilling wind has turned the earth hard as stone
And silently seeds rise beneath ice and snow

And my heart's heavy now
But I'm not letting go of this hope I have that tells me

Spring is coming, Spring is coming
And all we've been hoping and longing for soon will appear
Spring is coming, Spring is coming
It won't be long now, it's just about here"

~Steven Curtis Chapman

God called me to the deep and I answered, but not with a joyful and trusting heart. Instead I gave Him my pent-up, defensive, worrisome heart. I'd been walking in the waters of fear this month, forgetting to keep my eyes on the Lord and feeling the icy water rise up beyond my ankles, losing the trust that's required to keep me afloat when the waters churn dark and fearsome.

Struggles with my rebellious son leading to a sorrowing heart caused me to wonder if that was how God felt when Adam and Eve ate the apple. When they turned their backs on His love and care acting as if they didn't need Him, did He feel that wave after wave of grief washing over Him? Who did He turn to then, to bring Him comfort? Yet, my loving God wouldn't let me live with that pain of motherhood for long before he turned my son around and wrapped us both in His love and peace. We have now had a week of familial bliss without a single argument!

And troubles with my boss at work-us passing each other by in the narrow hallway, barely saying hello, hardly looking at each other, her misunderstanding me and me surely misunderstanding her, but both of us too shy, too fearful, to ask the hard questions that could bring the relief of understanding. Until the recent day when we finally opened up just a little, just enough for God to open our hearts in kindness and we shared some of our misgivings allowing us to work together in peace once again. And now, we have had two days where our silent scowls have been replaced by smiles and friendly hellos!

Then my sister reaching out for forgiveness from a long-ago hurt she placed on my shoulders, and me wanting to withhold the freedom of loving forgiveness, having grown so accustomed to living in resentment. But, after reading and praying about her message, sent on her birthday, I felt a softening, a mellowing that loosened its grip on the rigid and narrow rock of ice in my heart and allowed it to melt into warm and peace-filled waters, that brought me to want to choose gentle love over stiff resentment. God brought me to respond with love and I pray that we are on the verge of a true and peaceful forgiveness!

Now, it was with one of my most recent fears that God really worked my heart to truly bring me peace. Such a little worry, but he kept putting it in the front of my mind, placing it deep into my heart where it burned until I could work it out. My dearest friend asked me to help work with a long-standing faith group, and I agreed because I was eager to help him, but in what is an all-too common anxious habit of mine, I quickly felt myself back-treading. I listened to Satan's whispered lies, telling me that I couldn't do it, that it would never work and I was contemplating leaving the work to someone else. But God wasn't going to let me escape from responsibility that easily. He kept working me, drawing my worries out in written words, giving me time to look at them and pray about them, really letting them soak into my soul, helping me to understand my worries from a different view, until I could see that it truly is His will that I take this role upon my shoulders. It's for His glory after all, and how could I ever say no to God's glory?

And through all these struggles, disappointments and worries-these winters of my spirit-God carried me, led me, and warmed me until at last, the brilliant sun streamed down and broke through the common clouds of frigid winter. It feels like spring! So, naturally, I had to stop and pick up flowers to bring the season to life and remind me that winter doesn't last forever, and spring is just around every corner.

This reflection from Caryll Houselander seems to describe the winter of the spirit so well-the dryness in prayer, the lack of faith and trust, the struggles to live life with joy. What a lovely reminder this is of the hope we have in Christ if only we will remember that He is always there in the trials and tribulations, the little sufferings that come our way, in our own weakness and sinfulness, and spring will come again.

"Now most of us tend to want to feel the presence of the indwelling Christ all the time: we want to experience continual sweetness in devotion, our prayers are to be always breaking into flower within us, we are distressed because we know long periods when prayer brings us no sweetness at all, and we forget in our distress that if we go on praying without any 'consolation,' we are giving God something due him.

We are impatient because we do not immediately feel the healing of our wounds, or do not at once after confession recover from the effects of our sins; we are still tempted, and if we have formed a bad habit, it will take time to unform it.

The beginning of the rest which will allow the Holy Ghost to flood our souls consists in accepting God's plan, and in that plan there is winter as well as spring, spring as well as summer with its flowering, and autumn with its harvest. This means that we must deliberately refuse to be anxious. There are times when we shall not feel the indwelling of Christ, when we shall not feel that we have faith in it even, and these times, blessed winters of the spirit, are the times when Christ is growing in our souls."

~Caryll Houselander, Risen Christ


  1. Beautiful post Ann. I loved the quote by Caryll Houselander...this brings consolation amongst the many trials that are besetting me at the moment. It is a struggle to hold have pure Faith when you don't "feel" it. Please keep me in prayer and I will do likewise : )

  2. So beautiful. I can relate. God bless.