09 Jan Winter’s Gifts: Insight, Grace & Peace
As many people did, I traveled to be with family over the recent holidays. As is typical for us, we spent much of the week in Arkansas gathered in my mom’s kitchen, having wonderful conversations over meals and working jigsaw puzzles. We also took long walks—because you can only eat like that for so long before your body is demanding to move, right?
On one walk my daughter commented about how clearly we could see through the trees without all the leaves that usually obscure our vision. There against the icy blue sky, we noticed birds’ nests, mistletoe, and hundreds of small twigs and branches that sit close to the trunk of the tree. In December, winter lays everything bare, unencumbered by summer’s foliage.
In my mind’s eye I can still see the specific tree that caught Emily’s attention, but now that I am back in Virginia, there are thousands just like it all around me. It is a good image to bear in mind. There are seasons of life that don’t feel particularly comfortable. Whether prompted by illness or a death, a broken heart or a broken dream, winter comes to all of us. Winter often feels cold and sterile, isolating and discouraging—the “winter blues” some people call it. But winter also delivers gifts and one of those gifts is clarity.
When the trappings of our ego get stripped away, we are invited to face the truth about ourselves and our lives. Our self-reliance is exposed for the hubris it is. The ulterior motives we harbor, the resentments, the judgments and lack of compassion, the self-centeredness and desire to have life on our own terms—all are revealed when winter storms blow in upon us.
In other seasons, we are seldom motivated to deal with the darker side of our nature. We are, after all, impressively masterful in the art of self-deception. Without winter, it is easy to remain unaware of the impact our ego-driven self has on others. They suffer—and so do we—from our ignorance. With winter comes the opportunity to seek healing and wholeness, to yield anew to God’s transforming work, to allow the Divine Potter to shape us, the ever-flawed but moldable clay, in brand new ways.
I keep thinking about that tree, and it reminds me to not only be grateful for the winters of my life but also to embrace them—to welcome winter as a friend and teacher rather than resenting it as an uninvited, unwanted interloper. This is a paradigm shift for me, one that already is bringing new insight, grace, and peace. Might there be a tree nearby that can speak to you as well?
Yours for the Kingdom,