A Short Word on Winter Seasons: Noticing What’s Lingering Beneath the Surface of Our Souls
Listen to today’s post here:
Winter comes a bit harshly, doesn’t it?
The trees go bare, and the sun dips down low in the sky and stays that way for longer than any of us would like. It’s funny how we don’t notice the light until it’s no longer there. The air grows cold and thin, piercing our lungs and making our fingers go numb.
It’s the nakedness of winter that startles me the most though. It’s not just the trees; even the sky seems stripped of color, going all gray and muted.
But maybe this is winter’s ultimate invitation – to see what’s lurking beneath the bare branches of our souls once the cold sets in and the days grow shorter while the nights grow longer still. To look inward and pay attention to what’s lingering there in the dark, unprotected by summer’s greenery.
And while this may seem like an intimidating invitation, it’s a merciful one, too. A kindness. Because it’s in the bare state of our souls that we see ourselves more clearly. Like a tree that loses its leaves, revealing the remains of a dead beehive and perhaps a sparrow’s nest or two. The nakedness allows us to see through all the muck and mud that tends to get in the way of who we really are and brings light to the dark places that were once hidden.
I hide when I hurt, though, and sometimes it hurts to look down and see the darkness within me. The reality of winter can be a painful one.
I imagine this is what Adam and Eve felt like when they ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. Their reaction to their nakedness, their own darkness, in Genesis 3:7-8 tells me my hunch might be right.
“The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.
When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees.” (NLT)
I find it interesting that the first repercussion of sin that they both experienced was shame.
In response to it, they hid, covering up their nakedness. But I think what they really were attempting to do was cover up their shame, and run from the pain of their own sin.
We do that, don’t we? When pain comes for us, when the shame sets in or the fear consumes or the words wound again, we run and hide. We reach for anything that feels safe and comfortable and known to cover the brokenness even if it breaks us deeper.
So, when winter seasons beckon us to look down at our own dark places, we recoil and cover up. We deny our humanness and reach for fraudulence even though we ache to be made whole and the only way forward is through our own brokenness.
But you know what I see God doing when our first instinct is to hide our nakedness? Cover the shame? Stuff down the fear?
I see Him calling out for us, and that’s exactly how He responded to Adam and Eve when they chose to cover their nakedness in Genesis 3:9,
“Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (NLT)
Where are you?
That’s God’s first question to Adam and Eve.
Not, “How could you do this?!” Or, “What the heck were you thinking?!”
No, instead He asked, where are you?
The truth is, God often handles us with a heck of a lot more care than we handle ourselves, and His words are never demeaning.
It’s a holy beckoning, a sacred invitation to step out from the shame, the dark, and the hurt and remember that you belong with God not hidden from Him.
I wrote about the different soul seasons at the end of December as a way of helping you name where your feet are – where your soul is in connection to God, yourself, and others. In that post, I explained that winter is a time of dormancy, rest, and darkness. It oftentimes feels lonely, sad, and weighty.
But amidst the dark night of winter, the cold that comes with it, and the numbing of extremities that follow in its wake, I hear a Voice calling in the distance. I sense hands reaching out gently to hold our aching hearts, giving us courage to face the dark.
Where are you? Is not an exile. It’s not a death sentence. It’s not a question that’s meant to shame or scare you into hiding. It’s an invitation to return to the shelter of the Most High and rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1-2)
To recognize where your feet are, and then to take baby steps toward the faithful One.
Author, Katherine May in her book, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, says,
“We have seasons when we flourish and seasons when the leaves fall from us, revealing our bare bones. Given time, they grow again.“
Our nakedness doesn’t have to be a thing that keeps us from God. It doesn’t have to make us run and hide. Bare can be beautiful because it calls us back to the bare bones of who we are and who we are slowly becoming. Bare is beautiful because it reminds us of our need for the love and mercy of God.
It draws us out of hiding and into a spacious place, one where our souls can breathe without all the baggage we tend to carry and forget about until it’s not there anymore. Our winter seasons can lead us to God, lead us to the One who can Love all of our broken pieces back into wholeness.
Yes, the process can feel scary. No, I’m not saying it will be easy. But I do believe it to be the only way back to our truest selves. The only way back to our whole selves, rooted in God.
And, as Katherine May said, given time, new things will grow again. Winter is a season, a productive one – a healing one – if we allow it to be. It’s a season of preparing for the soft ground of spring so that new things can be cultivated and grown again.
Don’t be afraid of these cold, dark winter months, my friend. They are forming you and God is with you.
“I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” (Psalm 18:1-2,19 NIV)
Father God, help us find you in our winter places.
May the gray and cold of this season draw us closer to Your warmth of Light and beauty.
May we be brave in bearing our whole souls to You, to ourselves, and to each other.
And when it’s all said and done, may the stripping of this season bring us to a spacious place — one where we find our greatest delight in You alone.
Peace be with you,