Photo by Dabine. pxhere.com
A friend sent me this quote from the book, ‘Cultivate’:
'I had forgotten that trees speak loud in the quiet of their bareness.
As I walked through the woods and observed the beauty, He said to me, ‘Savour the clarity that the winter brings.’
'This time I knew exactly what He meant. I could see so far because of the bareness. I could see the contour of the land, the way the hills rise and fall like a rolling chorus of melody and strength. Clarity in the winter. Sleeping but still speaking-life.'
We are going through a winter in all kinds of ways at the moment. There has been the beauty of snow, with the eery but peaceful stillness that comes after an evening snowfall. And there is also the winter of the harsh cold reality of isolation, home imprisonment, and brutal home/work/school/health life.
So how can we see our current environment through the eyes of Jesus and the word of God? There are plenty of wilderness experiences in the bible – times of squeeze, desolation and no-end-in-sight hardship. In each one of these, there is a yearning for spring and colourful fruitfulness but also a real experience of God’s presence – even when everything positive is stripped away. Perhaps there is something for us to learn from hibernation, the clarity of bareness, and the absence of need to produce bright fruit.
God seems to look for faithfulness rather than productivity in wilderness times. Jesus spent 30 years not healing people or teaching. The Israelites did not occupy the land, plant gardens or build cities in their 40 year desert journey. Joseph was in slavery or prison rather than fulfilling God given dreams of successful cosmic leadership.
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Jesus uses the image of a vine – not quite a tree but a plant that requires support to flourish – to describe a spirit filled life. And interestingly it is the restful living and depending – the remaining or abiding – that appears to be more important to him than the producing of fruit. In fact, the fruit cannot grow unless there is plenty of hidden, seemingly inactive, abiding happening. Therefore, in this winter season, it is good to remember that we are not required to be productive come what may – doing lots of good works, taking the land, making waves, trumpeting our calling – but instead we are required to remain in Jesus. To make the most of winter and wilderness. To do what we know we are called to do as we faithfully serve those in our families or at work or in the neighbourhood. And to rest in the fact that there will come a time – in God’s Spring season – where we may grow once more towards the warm sunlight and stretch into the fulfilment of dreams, visions and callings.
The clarity of our winter is that we know that God loves us, Jesus has sent his Spirit to help us and fill us, and that the new life we experience now in our hearts will take us on into an eternity of joy and endless possibility. This is what it means to walk with Jesus; to simply be, and from that being, to love mercy, act justly and walk humbly with God.
My prayer is that a snow-covered stillness would cover the shape of your life – including your aspirations and God given yearnings – so that even in the extreme busyness of holding life together, your spirit might find its nesting in the hidden warmth of God’s undemanding, freely releasing love.
Martin J Young