Every single year I greet the first few sunny spring days here in the Pacific Northwest surprised that the gray is gone and the buds are blooming faithfully with the changing season. The first warm days (aka anything over 55 degrees) always make me want to cry. It’s such a relief, like a weight has been removed and I can function again. I pull out summery dresses and my sandals in an optimistic greeting to the fair weather. Yes, I’m still cold in this dress but nothing compares to how good it feels to not be trudging around in my heavy boots and winter coat.
To be fair, winter isn’t hard here. It’s just SO gray. It’s not months of being buried in several feet of snow, I’m not chopping wood to make a fire and we’re lucky if we get more than a couple of snow days most winters. But man, that stretch of time from November to the end of March, sometimes April, is rough. It’s hard to feel motivated to do anything when everything feels so cold, rigid, dark and changeless and bathed in the same gray light day in and day out.
More Than Just Weather
This winter was particularly dark for so many reasons completely unrelated to the weather. We watched a division in our former community turn into a chasm that appears to be completely uncrossable. People we’ve known for years, people we’ve loved, prayed for, been in community with and people my husband grew up with are now like strangers to us.
Watching believers turn on one another is easily one of the most horrifying things I’ve seen in a very long time. People you entrust with the confession of your sins, the counsel of your soul and who have been faithfully walking beside you suddenly transforming into attackers is traumatizing to everyone caught in the web Satan so craftily weaves while we aren’t paying attention. And it happens all the time, everywhere. I’m starting to see that particularly in the Christian church, the division we have with one another is actually the evil one working his way into our flawed human hearts, determined to divide us from one another. How can a body be strong if it’s at war with itself? Like an autoimmune disease performing a necessary function (defending the body) that’s gone awry and started attacking the host, Christians attacking one another only ever ends one way: we all lose.
Caleb recently attended a conference for pastors hosted by Ligonier Ministries and his takeaway has changed my outlook forever. Every single thing we do; every sermon, every interaction, every relationship we build ALWAYS needs to come back to the Gospel. Every conflict, every grievance, every question, accusation, doubt, concern. The only thing that holds us together in one body is Jesus Christ. If we aren’t vigilantly holding one another up to the light of the Gospel in our words, deeds and actions then the darkness will creep in, slowly and unexpectedly, just like it did for this community and so many others.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)
But like Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,” watching this division has renewed my hope for the relationships we build, reminding me that if we build it on the solid rock of God’s love and His Word, He will guide us through the winters in our relationships. Sometimes our communities need pruning or even replanting, and God is faithful to pull the weeds out that begin to choke the garden. Either way, I rest on His judgment and His actions. The sun breaking through this season says to me that we are reminded again that nothing in this life is permanent, seasons will change and good can come out of something hopeless, especially when we entrust the outcome to God. And what a weight off our shoulders that really is!
Featured photo by Valeria Boltneva