The Darkness That Makes Us Yearn

Yesterday afternoon, I was tucked warmly away in my grandmother’s sun room. What an unusual place to sit and be warm, sipping coffee and having conversation while only a large window separates the human hearts from the heavy snowfall outside in the frigid temps. But there I was, reminiscing over the years I’ve been married—18 years this summer. My aunt said she would be married 30 (I think) and she said she didn’t know how many winters. I was confused for a moment. Did she mean literal winters? But she did not. She meant the trying times, the difficult parts, the areas in marriages that many wish they could speed pass or run from. I nodded with understanding. “Those are the best times,” I said. “They make us more beautiful, stronger people. I love my winters more than any of the other times.”

Then last night, while I was laying in bed, blankets piled high because it was freezing, I started to think about how much truth is hidden in the idea that winters are the trying times; the hard times; the times that shape and mold us; the times that make us stronger; fill us with more love that’s unbreakable; purify us….

In the year 2018, winters are still quite literally difficult. We have to work hard to fight back the wildness of it all. We put up plastic over the leaky windows in our old houses. We prepare our cars that sometimes still can’t keep up in the sub-zero temperatures. We fight to unfreeze pipes and then run about screaming when the pipes burst and begin spraying cold water all over the basement (okay, perhaps I was the only one screaming). We are beyond frustrated when the busted pipes require immense cleanup and repair and then they only freeze once again a few hours after fixed. We worry about the roads that become treacherous with snow drifts and ice, both seen and unseen. School is delayed or canceled. Job shifts are rearranged to accommodate the children, stir crazy with cabin fever. We stock up our pantries and fatten ourselves up on hot chocolate and endless pots of chili.

2018…(take THAT Y2K believers!)

We are still fighting to live through the winters. It’s hard. It certainly isn’t easy…and people are often wishing to escape the winter and run to a safer, warmer, more inviting place.

Our ancestors--the legacy that has grown into us--they knew that winter would quite literally bring life or death. They worked hard to prepare and then battened down the hatches, hoping that they would arrive through the dark and enter back into the warm life of spring. They needed hope, filling every surface of their homes with the green hope of life with cuttings of evergreen.

They were superstitious.

They were vigilant.

They were tough.

And they lived through it.

At the end of winter, they took the winter greens and readied a large fire. Some wrote notes of things they wanted to leave behind with the winter—tucked the notes into the evergreen, and burned it all to ash. It was a cycle. There would be another winter, but for now, there was Spring.

But there would be a spring after, if only they fought hard to see it.

This is marriage.

This is relationship.

This is friendship and life.

Be thankful for the winters.
They are tough and sometimes they hurt. You may want to run away and find something more comfortable, but each time the winter darkness turns to warm spring, you will find yourself stronger, more capable, and purified to keep moving forward as time walks with you.

I will leave you with this Celtic prayer of thanks for the seasons:

There is a winter in all of our lives,
a chill and darkness that makes us yearn
for days that have gone
or put our hope in days yet to be.
Father God, you created seasons for a purpose.
Spring is full of expectation
buds breaking
frosts abating and an awakening
of creation before the first days of summer.
Now the sun gives warmth
and comfort to our lives
reviving aching joints
bringing colour, new life
and crops to fruiting.
Autumn gives nature space
to lean back, relax and enjoy the fruits of its labour
mellow colours in sky and landscape
as the earth prepares to rest.
Then winter, cold and bare as nature takes stock
rests, unwinds, sleeps until the time is right.
An endless cycle
and yet a perfect model.
We need a winter in our lives
a time of rest, a time to stand still
a time to reacquaint ourselves
with the faith in which we live.
It is only then that we can draw strength
from the one in whom we are rooted
take time to grow and rise through the darkness
into the warm glow of your springtime
to blossom and flourish
bring colour and vitality into this world
your garden.
Thank you Father
for the seasons of our lives

~Gia Cooper

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