he clock adjacent to my bed read 3:32 am. Lured from slumber by the haunting, mournful song of a nightingale settled into his favorite nesting spot just outside my bedroom window, I lay cocooned in a sea of down repeatedly reviewing the next day’s to-do list in my mind. Distracted and restless, my eye was drawn to the unpretentious lavender floweret in the bud vase on my dresser. Without warning, I was stilled and startled at the realization that the seasons had retained their essential rhythm and winter had been forced to relent, once again, to the new beginnings of soft greens, longer light, and the sweet air of a new season. How did spring sneak in so stealthily? I am not ready.
Winter reflected my mood, our grief. Now everything is blooming most recklessly, the evidence of God the master artist on the canvas of a drab and dirty world. Things are growing. The earth is awakening and life marches forward, even when we are not ready. Winter grief freezes us in time, dormant under a blanket of fresh snow. Colors and sounds are muffled and muted, and there is a strange sense of comfort as the sun sets and shadows lengthen. But now there are flowers, and cool misty mornings are gently burned away with the warming spring sun.
As I lay in bed in the early hours of morning, I began to think for a moment about the reality of spring. It occurred to me that for all of its beauty and wonder it is also hostile and unpredictable. Surrounded by verdant land and vivid hues we underestimate the force of spring. The mystery of unexpected winds that blow in unannounced, the ferocious thunderstorms both beautiful and frightening in their scope and size, tornados that race across the landscape crushing humanity and transforming the earth into ruble and debris, these are the oft forgotten elements of the great annual miracle that is the advent of spring.
There in the transitions, the imbalance and the unpredictability of the springtime awakening, lies spring grief. We are ill prepared for the fact that grief is not just sadness and it certainly isn’t linear. It is, as Charles Dickens penned, a March day when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold. It is April dusk when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade. It is fifty different kinds of weather in the span of one gentle rotation of the earth. It wakes us from the winter solitude; the soil in which beauty was planted and creativity grew, and showers us with rain that cultivates endurance and strength. In spring I am learning the discipline of being surprised not by suffering but by joy. I am continually amazed by the little flower that shows its beauty in the midst of the frost covered earth and I am surprised by the immense healing power of God that keeps bursting forth like springs of fresh water from the depths of pain. I am beginning to understand that when I face my biggest challenges I just may be closest to my biggest miracle.
It has been said that for a tiny planted seed to become what it is created for, it has to come completely undone. The shell will crack and the insides explode forth and everything about that seed changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth it looks like complete and utter destruction, but to the Creator God it is the beginning of a masterpiece.
It is spring and I don’t feel ready, but life is defined by time and seasons. It doesn’t reach a point and stop, even when the unthinkable happens, and so I know it is time to accept spring. Winter grief has served a purpose but it cannot define us and as we lift our faces to the sun we will feel both the comfort of warmth and the bitter salt of tears. We will wait expectantly to have hope rekindled and prayer answered in unthinkable ways, finding great beauty in this growing season.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31:25