Summer. Autumn. Spring. Even if push came to shove, I would be hard pressed to decide which of these is my favorite season.
What is it about summer? In the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, let me count the ways. Dew on the grass and early morning fog that burns off by mid-morning. The drone of a lawn mower and the smell of freshly mowed grass. Leisurely days and tall glasses of fresh squeezed lemonade. Leaves rustling in the breeze. Long shadows cast by late afternoon sun. Glorious orange sunsets. The symphony of insects that lulls me to sleep.
Autumn brings New England’s breathtaking foliage. I do not have the words to describe the aroma of autumn in the air. The trees explode with vivid reds, yellows, and oranges and are stunning against the brilliant blue skies. There is a sensory-satisfying crunch of fallen leaves underfoot and the ongoing endeavor to rake those same leaves. Warm days couple with crisp nights. Pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns grace many a porch. Sweatshirts are dug out of the back of closets, and before we know it we wake up one morning to our first frost. We all know what comes next. This is where the nostalgic memories come to a quick halt.
Ice scrapers. What joy is there in that? A cold car is great when it is in contrast to burning heat, but is not so delightful when the outdoor temperature is below freezing. The shift from a cozy bed to a cold bedroom is painful. The walks with the dog are shortened to walks to the mailbox and back. There is a sense of accomplishment after the driveway is cleared of piles of snow, but wait. Did the snowplow just go by…. again? Back out to shovel the mounds they leave behind.
Winter. Not my favorite season.
In my opinion, the best thing about winter is that it is followed by spring. You can bet the farm on it. It always, always comes. Just when I start to think there is only so much comfort food I can eat, the weak, wintry sun begins to shine a bit warmer. The nights are a tad shorter. A crocus peeks through the thawing soil. I catch a glimpse of Mr. Redbreast. As piles of snow begin to recede, my spirits begin to rise. One day I suddenly realize it is no longer just the hope of Spring that I am waiting for – it is present in all its colorful, blooming glory. The earth is awake and my soul sings.
Definitely the best thing about winter is that is comes to an end. But there is a part of me that knows that without winter my appreciation for spring would not be so keen. Reveling in the newness of spring stems partly from the release of winter’s grip.
With that said, over the years I have come to grudgingly accept the beauties of winter. The joys of Christmas propel me through the beginning of the season. I love the view of a winter wonderland from my front window. I have learned to dress warmer, savor a cup of hot tea, and pad around the house in warm, furry slippers.
However, in my mind there persists the reasoning that hard times of the soul are like winter. When I experience a season of God’s bitter providence for me, my heart feels like frozen ground. It is a time of enduring, waiting for the sure promise of release. I know that the ‘dark night of the soul’ will pass. The morning always comes, but, oh! sometimes the night is so long. King David and I surely shared the same joy that follows a long, dark night:
Weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5
All who belong to God will experience the long, dark night of the soul; the hard, cold winter of His grace. We are sometimes asked to endure a bitter providence, but rest assured He promises that it is for our good.
Have you ever known the night to never end? And only in Narnia was there a time when it was always winter. Not only will the spring come, there is the potential for it to burst upon you in unexpected ways.
Be encouraged by these words from John Donne, the 17th century poet:
He brought light out of darkness, not out of a lesser light; he can bring your summer out of winter, though you have no spring; though in the ways of fortune, or understanding, or conscience, you have been benighted until now, wintered and frozen, clouded and eclipsed, damped and benumbed, smothered and stupefied till now, now God comes to you, not as in the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of the spring, but as the sun at noon.