Sunday, 15 March 2015

Spring Brings New Life....In a Messy Sort of Way

In the past couple weeks, my life has taken me on a journey of highs and lows. Although most people would never know what I've all been processing and what's been happening, there has been a process of breaking and healing happening. And it feels strangely reminiscent of former years. It seems so often that this time of year for me is a time of painful growth. And then I looked outside and found that my life inside is strangely reminiscent of the world outside.

Spring is coming! There's hope. The freezing winter temperatures are giving way to numbers above zero! It's so exciting. And I look forward to sunshine, warm weather, robins, daffodils, the beach. But today when I look outside, it's kind of yuck. You see, spring doesn't come overnight and the process often leaves things a little messy. As temperatures rise, the snow melts and the white picturesque landscape gives way to one a little less picturesque. Mounds and drifts of snow that were once glistening white get dirty as they shrink and melt away. Patches of exposed earth reveal mud, debris, and dead grass. Nighttime brings in fog and thick mists that last into the afternoon, making very little distinguishable in the distance. Winter was beautiful and summer will be too, but for awhile things look a little dreary and gross. Ah, this is so reminiscent of what has happened in my spiritual life so many times.

The weather as it is now makes for great maple syrup weather. With freezing temperatures at night and single digits warm during the day, the sap is running. But in order for that sap to become the rich, amber syrup I pour on my pancakes, it has to go through a long refining process. The sap is greatly reduced and purified as it's boiled down more and more. Ah, this too, is reminiscent of my life.

As I reflect on the last eight years of my life, the spring months have often been difficult. They have also often been seasons of growth, seasons where I have drawn closer to God, or gotten to know His love more deeply. They have been seasons where the direction of my life has taken a dramatic change. I have left one path to take another people couldn't understand. I have wrestled with God, as He broke my will, brought me to confession, repentance, and painful obedience. I have been in such dark, deep valleys I wished I could just go home to be with Jesus instead of face what was ahead. They have been times of physical illness or spiritual healing as I worked through deep pain and brokenness. They have been seasons like the one I see outside right now. The ice and snow melting away to reveal an ugliness I would much rather keep blanketed in white.

And it has been in these times where I have gotten to know God more. These times happen at other times of the year, not just the spring months. The times I get to know the Father that loves, cherishes and holds me, the One who chastens me because of the depths of His love for me, and breaks me so He can clean and heal the wounds. I get to know Jesus more, the Lover and Prince Who pursues me relentlessly, and wants to take me as His bride. I learn to understand the Spirit, that the conviction I often experience is evidence that I am indeed a child of God, and that He does not ask something of me without giving the comfort, peace and strength to do it. I get to know the God who breaks me and heals me, gently asks me to face the pain, not to hurt me, but because He desperately wants to use it for good. 

It's times, like the moments in the last few weeks that I feel God in a way I can't explain, even when I'm not doing anything normally considered spiritual. It's in the moments that I sense He is moving and saying something, even if I can't understand what it is. It's in the moments, my joy turns to tears because of what I feel inside...He's there. The time I look outside and see the melting snow creating pools and streams, the fog that clouds everything over, and I know this is what it's like. This is what it's often like when God moves and does something new. Sometimes it gets ugly and messy and we have to face a lot of uncomfortable stuff, and things are cloudy and for awhile we can't see clearly what's in front of us. It's when I think of the maple trees and how the sap has to be refined and I see, this is what the Christian life is like. Or just the moments I smile when I see a little girl with Down Syndrome delightedly licking away at a giant swirly lollipop (the kind most parents can't stand) and I feel like I see Jesus.

Can we hold on to these moments? The moments God speaks and brings new life, the moments He shows us His love, or the way He reveals things to us in the simple, everyday things, or the changing of the seasons?

And I think how in just a few weeks the church will celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, wherein lies our salvation, our hope of eternal life. We always celebrate in spring, amid all the symbols of new life. In spring, we celebrate the New Life that He came to give. And when it happened, it was a messy Spring. It was an agonizing spring that brought that new life, the hardest Jesus had to endure. The grief that made Him drip blood like sweat. The brutal torture he endured. The death He died on a cross as He bore the sin of man and the wrath of God. The darkness that covered the earth as men feared and trembled. The three silent days when those who loved Him feared hope was lost.

Then in one moment. The empty tomb. The shed grave clothes. NEW LIFE!

 But oh, it was a messy Spring.

In order for life to happen, things often get messy first, or downright painful. We see it in nature, in the changing of the seasons, and in the cross. Any mother that has ever given birth can certainly testify to this truth as well. But following the pain, that baby takes it's first breath and utters a cry....and it's beautiful.

Right now things look somewhat dreary and messy outside. But the days are coming where the grass will be thick and lush, the flowers will bloom, the trees will bud, and the robins will sing. And God desires to do the same things in our lives, to bring life and healing out of darkness and pain, to make beautiful what is dirty and messy now.

This is what God does. He brings new life in messy ways. And sometimes we have to wrestle with Him to get it.

"When we get so close to God in our wrestling that He breathes on us, life happens." --Trudy Metzger

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