By mid-January I am generally left wondering how much more winter and darkness I can take that season. Winter is a struggle for me in many ways, and January and February often prove to hold significant spiritual wrestling.
Having been raised in a protestant evangelical setting, I did not grow up observing the season of Lent, but as I entered my late teen years I began a type of personal observance of the 46 days leading up to Resurrection Sunday.
By the time winter begins to draw to a close, my heart is hungry to observe the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Through the change of season, Jesus leads me kindly to repentance and renewal. In the days of long darkness I understand well my state of dust, and a hunger for new life grows afresh inside me.
This week I spent several quiet hours by myself, hiking the riverbank of a familiar childhood river. Sparked partly from boredom, but mostly from a desire to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and breathe the soft air, I set out through the woods towards the sound of the Kokosing River. Three hours of companionship with none but the LORD and His good creation, quiet prayer, silenced notifications, and nature living as a metaphor. I’ve spent many hours at our beautiful Kokosing, it an old, faithful friend. My Shepherd meets me there–its luscious banks and flowing waters full of holy reminders.
It was the second official day of spring, but the earth still held onto the remnants of winter and death–fallen leaves, dead branches, chilling water, the skeleton of a dead deer, pieces of broken beer bottles and china, a clothes washer discarded thoughtlessly off the edge of a cliff.
Yet all that death couldn’t hold back the resurrection of Spring.
The smell of reviving earth, green bulbs stretching from the soil, the music of the trickling rivulets, birdsong overhead–spring was coming awake. I could already feel my muscles remembering what it is like to run through summer.
Some Lenten seasons I fast, some I memorize Scripture, others I hang up art. It is not a season of self-flagellation, but of remembering and relying on the promises of my Heavenly Father, being renewed by His Word. Each year looks a little different, but during each turning of Spring the LORD guides me into deeper awareness of my reliance upon and restoration in Him. He leads me by quiet waters and restores my soul. He burdens me to pray, to sing, to remember Jesus as the Friend of Sinners.
In the course of my 24 winters the LORD has not ever failed to bring new life to the earth. He will not fail to bring the consummation of final new life to the earth on the day of Christ’s second coming.
So in the days of waiting we remember
Of dust we came and will return again
The Light has come and will come again