Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Two Kinds of Winter

"Winter is Coming." So says Eddard Stark in Game of Thrones to anyone who will listen. His warnings were not the ramblings of a man who hated cold bones and deep snow, but the warnings of a king who knew the Deep Winter brought monsters to ravage the land, robbing the people of their souls.  Summer will arrive in Winterfell eventually, but not for everyone.  This winter will be long and cruel, and unfortunately the monsters outside the door may not be that much worse than the ones inside the castle.
     Winter is coming.  It is a phrase that resonates with me since I moved to Traverse City.  In Alabama, the land of my youth, we welcomed the cool respite of winter.  Not so much in the frozen north.
I went hiking with my boys and my dog along the Boardman River today in Traverse City. We were all ready to get out and do something at the end of a long, Northern Michigan winter. Trixie splashed through the stream while Braden climbed trees and Vincent ran as far in front of us as he could, red jacket bobbing through the trees.

Summer is coming.Winter is leaving, but not without a struggle.  Last weekend, 30 inches of snow fell in about 24 hours.  If there was ever a time I have seen creation groan in Michigan, it was then.  The snow was mercilessly heavy, snapping trees and power lines, stranding thousands without heat or power, and forcing the closure of schools and churches.  The last month of Winter roared its way into our lives with one final gasp, unwilling to let us go, but unable to stop the changing of the times.

Summer is coming. The sun is out this week. Irises poke through my flowerbeds; little rivulets run along the side of road; the flitting birds around the feeder sound a bit more buoyant and hopeful.  Last weekend, I saw a huge flock of geese searching a snowy cornfield for a little extra food; today the swans were gliding across a sun-drenched Boardman Lake.  Last weekend, my oldest son made a snowball six feet high; today he practiced track outside in shorts and a T-shirt.

I have learned how to grudgingly appreciate some things about the winter months.  You can do some pretty cool things with snow.  But I have also experienced some seasons in life that have reminded me of a deeper reality.
There is more than one kind of winter. 

Ten years ago, my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer; two years ago, my youngest son was tested for autism; several times in our 22 years of marriage, my wife was forced to wrestle her way through the aftermath of miscarriages.  Twice in my life, I have felt the doom of a nervous breakdown approaching slowly, heavily, inexorably.
     With the arrival of these winters came monsters grim and terrible.  Somewhere, a beautiful summer offered warmth and life.  Some days, I did not believe it. But it was true, nonetheless.

But there is also more than one kind of summer.

 In a realm beyond this mortal coil, there is warmth; there is hope; there is life.  Winter is only a season.  In several cases, summer came quickly. My youngest son still has some challenges, but he does not have autism; my wife has grieved, but she has also battled through the valleys and shadows of lost children and dreams.  My nervous breakdowns were not the end of my life; by God's grace I recovered and moved on, older and hopefully wiser.
    On the other hand, my dad lost his life in that harshest of seasons. His winter ended quickly, but mine had just begun.  That season has taken longer to change, but warmth has trickled back in slowly, and a ten-year-old blizzard is now trickling in small streams along the road of life. The One who gave new life to my father has been faithful to bring warmth to a lonely, cold son.

And so I hiked today with my boys, grateful that summer is coming, and that winter is only one season after all.

     In Revelation, John makes the curious comment that the new Heaven and Earth will have "no more sea."  That makes sense - not because water is evil, but because a non-seafaring Jewish nation saw the waters of the deep as the home of the worst terrors in the world.  
     Perhaps if John had lived here, he would have promised "no more winter," not because snow is bad, but because we know what it means to be cold, and we long for the son.

     I have no doubt that I will be cold again. On this side of heaven, summer is just a season too.  But one day the Son will warm the world for good, and the true winters of life will be forgotten as I hike farther up and farther in to a land that never grows cold.


  1. Being a part of a family of migrant workers, we migrated between Northern Michigan and South Florida, whatever the season offered in fruits and vegetables. We had family in both places on both sides of the family. My mom's family in Charlevoix, MI and my dad's family in Delray Beach, FL. I loved both places. Seemingly never-ending summer in Florida and seemingly endless winter in Michigan. Since making a decision to follow Jesus, I have been taken through several winters of my soul. The first time it happened, it coincided with an actual winter several years ago. As the snow began to give way with the warming of the moving towards spring sun, my heart began to also gain some warming followed by hope. I cried at the sentence "The One who gave new life to my father has been faithful to bring warmth to a lonely, cold son." It just struck me in a lonely, cold part of myself.

  2. "I have been taken through several winters of the soul." They are cold and hard, aren't they? I will pray that the warmth you have already found permeates the lonely, cold parts that remain.

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