Excerpted from the January/February 2015 issue of Christian Woman Magazine.
Winter is a magical time. Even if you have never seen a winter, you would recognize it.
At first glance, winter appears ominous. Grey skies shroud a cracked and barren landscape. Daylight is fleeting, the numbing chill relentless. Bare branches stretch up from brown earth grasping for fragile bits of sunlight that manage to pierce through the thick mantel overhead. The earth seems void of life. But look again.
Patches of frost dot the ground, like lace doilies on fine mahogany. Trees which seem barren and lost stand tall to display unique patterns of bark and limb. Tiny buds, tightly closed and clinging to branches, remind us of life within and new life to come.
Small animals burrow in tunnels, their systems slowed to barely support life, awaiting a new beginning. Should you overturn a log or stone, you might find tiny lizards, snakes or insects asleep, dreaming of renewal and rebirth. On a sunny day in winter the sun seems brighter, the sky bluer, the air clearer and sounds sharper than in any other season. You sense a cleansing, a preparation for the new year to come.
Then there is snow. The sky spits tiny diamond crystals and frozen bits of fluff that drift down to blanket the earth, a comforter against the bitter cold and blowing winds of winter. Regarding snow, American naturalist Joseph Wood Krutch wrote, “There is no other time when the whole world seems composed of one thing and one thing only.” Snow presents a vibrant new earth for us to enjoy, a different way for us to view the landscape. God tells us, “To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV). It is winter. God’s world is at rest.
Winter brings a change for us, too. At season’s start, our busy lives get busier. I am not sure if it is the dwindling daylight hours or the flood of major holidays at this time of year, but we are busy. We are in more of a hurry to get things done, and it seems like our tasks are never-ending. We are working and shopping and cooking and cleaning. We are buying and wrapping and storing. We are putting up and taking down. We are meeting and greeting and trying to smile through all of it when sometimes all we really want to do is sit and cry. And sometimes, that is just what we do when things get overwhelming.
Still, we square our shoulders, purse our lips and trudge on, for we are a determined and self-reliant bunch. Although we are told in Proverbs 3:5 to “trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding,” we try to do it all ourselves.
We live in a hectic world that expects us to be busy all the time. We are expected to be independent, self-made and successful at all we do. We bristle at competition and fear failure. We strive to do it all, to be all that we can be. And just when we think we have everything under control, we get snow, a heavy wet blanket of the unexpected that dominates our landscape and forces us to change our perspective and alter our routines. By mid-season we are exhausted. To us, winter is an ordeal.
But, what if winter is a message? What if it is telling us that worldly strivings and expectations blind us to what is truly important. On the seventh day God rested. In winter the world rests. Perhaps winter is a time for us to sit back, take a deep breath, quiet our minds and relinquish control to the One who controls all.
We spend a good deal of time in mental isolation, analyzing our lives, drawing up lists of improvements needed, wounds to be bound, flaws to be hidden and lamenting our hardships, mishaps and failures. We often forget we are children of God, wonderfully made in His image. We are earthen vessels, unique in our quirks, but specifically designed to serve the Lord and carry His Word to all the world. Marvelous are His works and His design. The trials of the world pale in comparison. God does not make mistakes. Maybe it is time to dwell on our unlimited potential and our true purpose. It is winter. A new year awaits.
British author and poet, G.K. Chesterton speculated, “the object of a new year is not that we should have a new year, but rather that we should have a new soul.” Romans 12:2 tells us, “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
So, when the winter winds blow and snowfall isolates you from the rest of the world, take comfort in the peace and quiet. Appreciate this gift of solitude and time and use it wisely. Turn off the TV, put away the iPads, cell phones and other distractions that keep us occupied but profit us little. Dwell on the beauty, wonder and complexity of God’s creation. Appreciate His unlimited patience. Meditate on His Word and allow Him to speak. Allow Him to take control of the storms that rage around you and within you. Embrace the diamond crystals of God’s love as they drift around you, a comforter against the bitter cold and blowing winds of life.
It is winter. It is a time for reflection and renewal, a time to reaffirm who we are and why we are here. It is a time to view our lives and our purpose in a different way, to realign our values and our goals and set priorities for the new year to come. It is a time to seek out God and reconnect.
It is winter; “to every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
Kathleen A. Berry is a retired educator and counselor. She and her husband, Reggie, live in Kennesaw, Ga., and worship with the Woodstock Church of Christ where she served as a Bible school teacher and department coordinator for many years and together they developed the congregation’s ESL program.