[bl]L[/bl]arge flakes of snow swirling and falling. Blowing and gathering.
The barren winter earth covered in a thick blanket of white.
Pine tipped with snow, green peaking through.
Deciduous trees, otherwise bleak and brown, made pretty by the snow gathered in their crevices.
And when the ice hangs on and the sun shines in just the right way, it’s stunning.
Children with rosy noses and cheeks. Footprints of play. Giggles on sleds.
Sweet hands cupping hot cocoa to warm their fingertips, to warm their body.
I sometimes forget that these beautiful winter scenes are images of a season of dying.
Life in abundance is celebrated with long days and active creatures. The blooming and growing gives way to orange and red and yellow. And when our peaking colors fade, falling to be swept away or buried in the earth, death settles in. For months the earth is static. Still. Some creatures hibernate. Others slow to a walk.
I like that about winter.
But eventually, we grow tired of the cold, the bundling, the shoveling, the scraping. We grumble in the bitter mornings and long for the warmth of the sun to touch our skin. But each time the snow falls new, we’re reminded just how beautiful winter is.
Surely the snow is God’s way of softening our season of dying. For without it, these long Michigan winters would be dreary. Colorless.
God does this. He makes death bearable. In our darkest, most dreary days, he comforts us with blankets of grace, dustings of hope that someday Spring will come.
The winter of our church family is almost unbearable. Terrible, heart wrenching deaths have swooped us off our feet. The heart of a young father and husband stopped much too soon. While at play, a small boy tragically killed in an accident. And we lie on the cold, snowy ground of death and weep. We cry out for the wife, the children, the unborn child that will never know. For the mother, the father, the brother that witnessed with his own eyes. The driver who just didn’t see. And we watch their grief. Their honest grief. And we wonder if it had been us, what we would do, how we would survive.
Our genuine words swirling and falling around them seem futile. What do you say to the grieving?
In these deaths it’s hard to find the snow, the part that is beautiful. It just feels bitter cold. We’re frozen in deep sorrow.
And we ask hard questions like How does a God that is all good allow such tragedies? And we remember his own tragedy. His separation from all that he created.
Our God knows about dying.
The hearts of those that have lost have never been nearer to the heart of God than now. He knows their grief. He knows what it’s like to be separated from those you loved deeply. He knows what it’s like to lose a son. He knows suffering well. Isn’t he the first to ever endure it?
And then I realize that if Spring never came, the white of winter would not be beautiful. It’s the new life that blossoms in April that makes the February snow bearable, worth enduring. For if winter was everlasting, we would grow weary. And the snow would no longer help us endure. It would be a terrible reminder of death.
There is no beauty in dying. The cross would be insignificant if the resurrection never came.
After death, God always resurrects. He will birth new life in these families. The labor will be painful. They will grow and stretch in ways that feel like their life may burst. They will retain grief and anger that swells their heart. They will grown in pain, and feel the fire of new life pushing through to catch its first breath. God will deliver his people. This is the hope that sustains us. The only hope we have.
May Spring come soon.