Truth is… I don’t know if I really want to write this morning. There are a dozen other things I could do that won’t take me up until the kids wake. Doing those other things, I won’t watch my morning melt away before me before waiting in line to drop my kids off. I’ll have to crawl through traffic to go to a place where I work my joints to irritation and my muscles to exhaustion. I’ll spend time inside someone’s house hanging doors.

And if it is like the last few, I’ll see a house that I’ll never be able to afford, lived in by people who seem to take what they have for granted in a way that just offends the marrow in my bones.

Truth is, I just want to be cynical and blame every hurt and every scar. I don’t have to work to smile to show the world how great joy can feel. My face can hang on its bony frame naturally and worry people who see me. An unsmiling face on me, I have found, scares people. It brings out the wanna be therapist in a lot of folks. They worry that there is unresolved pain and try and talk encouragement just long enough for me to put a mask back on.

So I say something stupid and half-happy to make them go away.

But cynicism or anger are secondary emotions. They are the turning and shading of sadness. And they are not really what any of us should be about when we hurt. We just need to hurt and we need the permission to do so with dignity and understanding. Empathy isn’t even necessary, just so much as a friend needs to know that when a person has gone into a moment of sadness, he or she has to work to see the light. When a person hurts, what he or she needs isn’t necessarily to be happy instantly.

Sometimes, we just need silence.

I can remember the beauty of snow.

It has been a few years now, but nothing quiets quite like a full dump of snow across the ground. It muffles the natural acoustics of the world. You can hear the large flakes gently ending their miles long descent from the atmosphere down to the ground with a gentle scrape of their unique frames one upon another.

The wind sighs in leafless branches and ears sting, cheeks grow rosy and sharp at the feeling of the cold air.

The dirt on the ground is covered and the entire world appears to be forgiven of any of its faults.

A good snow makes you forget what the land looked like and sounded like.

A good snow is sometimes better than a bad friend because it can take the dead of winter and make it quiet. It can take the days when the sun shines the least and make them glorious in solemnity and peace. Winter is beautiful, as a season, because of the place it represents in the redemption of hard times.

I have always loved this about winter.

Last year Hillsong wrote a song about how I feel about winter. And it blows my mind.

Like the frost on a rose
Winter comes for us all
Oh how nature acquaints us
With the nature of patience [1]

It’s not just the way these words drive home into me personally right now, it’s how high it is sung in its recording. For a male vocalist, it’s a high and vulnerable place, which is exactly the feeling of the cold and the vulnerable.

Like a seed in the snow I’ve been buried to grow
For Your promise is loyal from seed to sequoia

These words are evocative of the words of Christ who reminded his people that a seed, in order to bear fruit, had to die and go into the ground. The body had to be ruined so that what came after would make hundreds and thousands of itself. It is the basis for Paul’s writings to the Romans, especially concerning the nature of a living sacrifice of a life. He spoke of being a drink offering poured out.

Our lives, if lived on behalf of our God are spent like that seed and like that drink.

Spent, but not wasted.

And I know
Though the winter is long
Even richer the harvest it brings
Though my waiting prolongs even greater
Your promise for me like a seed
I believe that my season will come

You have to listen to the song to understand the genius of this writing. There is an irritating pause between “Richer” and “The harvest.” Like, in the song, it stretches out to this length you just wanna say, “The winter is long and what’s richer? The snow plow driver?”

No… the harvest… but you have to wait for it.

Having done work with communities that move so often, it feels like watching premature harvests. But it was always a time to which I looked forward with affection. Goodbyes were always loaded with meaning and gravity of definition. I would see these days like our harvests.

And the fact that this song zeroes in on the glory of the harvest you have to wait for made me repeat that first section about 47 times.

Lord I think of Your love like the low winter sun
As I gaze, I am blinded, in the light of Your brightness

There are days when you have to look for the sun in the sky in the winter. Often it is obscured by clouds on grey days. Other days, it just feels ineffectual, in the cold and the wind. But there’s something in promise of a winter sun. It is the point of understanding that warm days are ahead. That the melt of the treacherous ice is coming.

Like a fire to the snow I’m renewed in Your warmth
Melt the ice of this wild soul ’till the barren is beautiful

And what is more wonderful, comforting, and beautiful than a fire in winter? I love the feeling of my skin drying out a little in front of a roaring fire. I can feel the light and heat breathe out from the burning wood and embrace my nerves through the cold, driving it away. It makes the heart beat slower as we watch the flames dance across the surface of the fire. It draws us to stillness and quiet.

I can see the promise, I can see the future
You’re the God of seasons, I’m just in winter
If all I know of harvest is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done working
God, I’m not done waiting

What beautiful and peaceful reassurance that in a time when I have felt so disconnected from the utility I once served, and disconnected from even the potential to do so again in any sort of capacity that there is a process to everything. What promise like that seed in the ground, what hope like the low light of a burning sun in the cold morning is the idea that in my waiting, God is doing something that He does not have to show me.

The harvest is worth my patience.

You can see my promise even in the winter
‘Cause You’re the God of greatness even in a manger

Wait… is this a Christmas song???

For all I know of seasons is that You take Your time
You could have saved us in a second instead
You sent a child

This is a Christmas song!!!

And please let us see Christmas for what it really is! It is a remembrance of the broken, dilapidated, depressed, awful, dark, ruinous, debauched, murderous state in which the world found itself thousands of years ago. All of creation groaned for relief from the ruin which mankind enacted upon it. The time it screamed thus before, God washed it over and restarted the entire thing with one family and a boat full of animals.

This time, He sent Himself as a baby.

God invaded His own creation like a divine D-Day and on the heavenly Normandy Beach invasion of Bethlehem, He took His time even then.

So that the harvest would be full.

Like a seed You were sown for the sake of us all
From Bethlehem’s soil grew Calvary’s sequoia

Shut up. That’s beautiful.

In an interview with Ben Hastings, one of the writers for the song revealed some of the story of writing the song. Apparently, he was inspired by the nature of the enormous stature of sequoia trees following a visit to one of the parks where they grow.

Most fascinating about the story is the idea that while he was writing a song about waiting for these huge trees to sprout from seed buried in the ground, one of the managers of the bumper video stories for their church was studying the same tree.

Apparently, sequoia trees require a harsh winter to activate the seed in the ground. It won’t flourish unless extreme freezes bring it out. [2]

Truth is, I didn’t want to write this morning. But it’s putting on thick layers of coats and thick soled boots. It’s a warm hat over my ears and gloves on my hands. It’s walking out from the safety of inside and stepping foot onto the frozen ground of my winter.

Here in the waiting of my winter is my God. And He is working. He has not forgotten me. He is with me.

And He is the greatest friend in my life because He has not ruined the moment of peace that exists in winter. He has been very quiet in my hurting, because it is the one thing I have needed most. He does not look at my restful and sad face and rush to replace it with a smiling mask.

God is not in a hurry for quick results to make Himself more comfortable with my reality. He is methodically molding and melting my life into a state of permanent joy in Him.

And that gives me hope.

Hope in the winter is more powerful than a home filled with fireplaces.

Hope is a small ring of stones surrounded by ice with a small fire lit in the middle. It is just enough for living, knowing that more will add to it and chase the cold and the freeze away.

Hope is a quiet friend in the dead of winter whose feet fall next to yours on a walk down a snowy trail, declining to ruin the quiet with wasted words, but instead giving what we all truly need in the winter: intimacy, peace, and trust that someone is there without having to prove it.

  1. Benjamin Hastings, Chris Davenport, and Ben Tan, “Seasons,” The Peace Project, Hillsong Publishing, 2017. CCLI #7095538.
  2. Worship Together, “Seasons-Hillsong Worship-New Song Cafe,” New Song Cafe. Accessed 11/8/18.

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