I recently saw a quote from the artist Andrew Wyeth, the acclaimed mid-20th century American realist painter. Wyeth wrote, “I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.” So true. Like a preface of what is to come in a greater narrative, a preview of a coming summer blockbuster.
Winter, however, isn’t always given Wyeth’s preferential treatment. Senior snowbirds fly south in search of friendlier Florida perches. Winter is the only season that comes with an advisory or warning attached to it. We even sing Christina Rossetti’s “bleak mid-Winter” during the Christmas season. And, for some, there is a coldness about the season which has nothing to do with outside air temperature. Winter can arrive with a lot of baggage.
Of course, there are others who do not believe winter deserves its sullied reputation. They revel in the cold outdoors as winter makes creation accessible in ways spring and summer hide from us. They cherish life drawn close around the hearth, a forced coziness in our isolated society. Coats, hats, gloves, and boots are the preferred uniform of the soldier of shorter days and cloudier skies.
Regardless of how one feels about winter, I believe it is an apt metaphor for a season in life. A time in which who you are and what you have are stripped bare of all pretentions. Everything seems dead or, at the very least, hidden. Hibernating.
Yet, hopefully we hold to the belief that our whole story has yet to be revealed and something spring-like waits beneath it; anyone who has endured bleak, personal winters knows how hard it is to believe the crocus will soon appear.
This winter, as we experienced some unusually cold and cloudy days here in north Texas, I am reminded of one such period in my life where the bleakness seemed it would never end.
Everything was stripped bare for me. Worse, the chill came from people I trusted and upon whom I depended. It was much like an icy wind that stings the face. By the end, I had no illusions about my utter dependency on Jesus Christ to see me through this unexpected storm.
At my lowest and most depressive point, through prayer and discussion with my wife, a counselor, and two close mentors, I considered leaving the ministry. Doing something different somewhere different in more hospitable climes. Maybe the snowbirds are on to something.
But it was not to be. I’m still here. But what would I be like if I had not experienced winter? What would creation be like without this season that enforces dormancy and rest on the land? As much as I loathed the experience while it was happening, hindsight speaks to how much more powerful the blooming of the crocus was for me. Winters can be hard, but something waits beneath it.
A cherished text for Christians across the ages and around the world is the Apostle Paul’s encouragement from Romans 8:28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. His words, and, in fact the whole of chapter 8, is like a late blanket of winter snow slowly melting in the sunshine, revealing all that lay beneath it. So much more than the eye could see or perceive.
Christ held fast to me and my family during that “winter.” He’s held fast through other winters and other seasons. Though my feelings and attitude ebb and flow, His constancy is for us, all of us. Never will He leave us, never will He forsake us. And that’s comforting. It’s encouraging. It’s as it should be for someone who loves this world so much, He gave His life to save it.
*In less than a month we will enter the season of Lent. It is much like a time of winter which carries the promise of spring. It is a penitential season, a season of bleakness and ultimately sorrow. But beneath it, the whole story is waiting to be told, soon to be revealed. That’s why for our Lenten experience this year we will go through portions of the Book of Job, a text appropriate for such a lesson on faith and life. I hope you can join us or stay with us on line!
To experience the works of Andrew Wyeth, click here.