The other day I went on a walk. It’s really not a rare occurrence; in fact, my parents don’t even ask me any more where I’m going. I just say, “I’m going on a walk around the neighborhood, and I’ll be back.” Might be long, might be short, who knows? Most of the time even I don’t know, don’t know where I’m going or how long I’ll be. You just follow the curves of the road, and turn when you feel like turning, and know that eventually you’ll make it back home.
The last few weeks have been such a random mix of weather patterns, and the past few days have brought so much wind and rain that they left most of us wondering if any fall would be left on the trees when the sun finally decided to return from vacation. There’s something relaxing and aesthetically revitalizing about it all, walking all alone down the wet, deserted roads (minus the occasional stray car) and taking it all in. The multi-colored leaves plastered to the wet road by the rain and by merciless cars that drive over them again and again. The streams flooding over the dams that the fallen leaves have created in frustrating futility. The occasional brave squirrel who knows that there are only a few short days left to gather nuts before winter comes, but turns to dart up that tree and hide as the leaves crackle under my feet. The clear water droplets forming on the ends of barren branches. That one red leaf struggling to hold on in the wind. My shoes are soaked now, my umbrella beaded with droplets from the perpetual drizzle. In Greenville, the early November air is revivingly crisp, but it makes rainy days like this one only cold and raw.
But I love the rawness.
Something in it reminds me of my soul in past months. The barrenness of the stripping season. Fall is the stripping season, the season of dying. But the dying is necessary. It isn’t until everything has died, until millions of leaves have let go and fallen to the earth, that new life can spring forth. It’s not until I have died that life can truly blossom in my soul. Until all my self-made plans, ambitions, wishes, goals, and identity have fallen to the ground. “For you have died…” (Colossians 3:3).
It’s one of the great paradoxes that make up the paradigm in which we live. Try to live, and you will only die; come and die, and you will truly live. “Whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:24). I think Jesus means a lot more than we often live like He means. He is saying, “Give up all that you are. Hold nothing, absolutely no part of your life, back from Me. Stop snatching at your life, and let Me be your life. Come to Me, lose yourself in Me, allow your identity to be wrapped up in Me.” “…your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). But really, what does that comprehensive, all-inclusive offering up mean? What does it mean for your life today? It means that all the nitty-gritty of your life (your body, your mind, your emotions, your resources, your time, your future) are no longer yours; they are His and He has the right to do with them whatever is most pleasing to Him. But Lord, that seems a bit extravagant! Hence the promise: you will save it. You will finally be free to be who you were made to be. Your individuality will not be destroyed but enhanced, and sanctified. But first, you must die.
We don’t die easily, and we don’t die quickly. But God is committed to our good and His glory, and so He often walks us through many falls and winters as He teaches us to die. However, the glory of fall and the hope of winter is that spring is coming. Every death that we die is a doorway to life. In fact, the last death we will ever face will only open the door to eternal life — full, free, and forever, before the face of Him who is Life Himself (John 1:4).
I am thankful to be smelling the scents of a long-awaited spring in my soul. I am rejoicing in the kindness of my God, not only for this new life, but for the winter as well. For the stripping of the fall that has purified and refined my love for Him, and for the barrenness of the winter that has spawned a stronger faith and sweeter trust in His faithfulness to His Word. And yes, for the rebirth of the spring that draws my heart up in worship by allowing me to see those things. I am grateful for the unique way He says, “I love you” through them all. Truly, He is “faithful in ALL His words and kind in ALL His works” (Psalm 145:13).
But for those of you for whom spring feels more like a nostalgic memory than a present hope: hold on. I hurt for you and pray for you, and beg you to hold on. Look up. Keep trusting what you can’t see or feel (2 Corinthians 5:7). Whatever your pain, you can know it isn’t unbearable — He will never give you a greater temptation than your faith can handle (1 Corinthians 10:9). The truth is, you can often handle more than you feel like you can, and He will stretch your faith because He wants it to grow. He is more concerned with your holiness than your comfort. And you can trust Him in that because He always knows and does what is best. So hold on. Anchor yourself in the promises of Scripture and trust what it says about God. Keep sowing good seed, because when spring does come (and it will!) all those good seeds will bear beautiful fruit, and all those Scriptures, as dry as they seem now, will suddenly break through with sweetness and joy. Surround yourself with those who know you and your struggle, and your God. Find those friends who will bring you to the feet of Jesus over and over again, allowing Him to shepherd you. Be wary of focusing on “good days” or “bad days”, because it is easy to become self-centered and to idolize the way you feel. Keep your eyes upward and outward, and trust the faithfulness of God.
There is still so far to go, many more winters to walk through and much more faith to be grown.
But life is a long walk, a journey — might be long, might be short, who knows? I don’t know, don’t know where I’m going or how long I’ll be. But I do know that I have a trustworthy Guide. He knows these roads; in fact, He carved them out and made this path just for me, only me. So I will follow Him through every turn and curve of the road because I know: eventually I’ll make it home.