As I write this, the rains pour relentlessly outside my office window—again. Having lived in the Pacific Northwest most of my life, however, I am not so easily fooled. While it may look like winter, and still feel like winter, spring is just days away.
Despite all the doubters, spring keeps showing up. Once again, plucky little buds are beginning to display their hues on the rain-soaked branches of the trees lining my street. And I have a confession. While I am not a tree hugger, I have been known to blow kisses to trees, especially the ones bold enough to wear bright pink in their hair during the early days of spring. Some members of my family seem a tad bit embarrassed by this, but there’s just something so wonderfully winsome about trees, especially in the spring, I can’t resist.
Maybe this stems from the days when, as a young girl (and much less afraid of dizzying heights and bone breakage), I’d climb as high as possible to the swaying branches of an old fir in the woods near my home. Since I was always one of the youngest and smallest kids in my class, perhaps being far above things at ground level gave me a different perspective…made me feel like I was finally big enough for the life I was expected to live below. These days I’m almost never the youngest or smallest in any crowd. (Rats!) But I still love trees.
The Bible actually talks a lot about trees and uses them as word imagery to show spiritual truths. The psalmist David describes people who delight in obeying and meditating on God’s law as ‘trees planted by the river that bring forth fruit in season.’ (Psalm 1:2-3)
Near the middle of the Bible is a tree verse that seems simple enough at first reading. It’s from a section of wise sayings that contrast good with bad…something pleasant with something difficult. King Solomon wrote, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)
To me, winter feels like a season of hopes on hold…dreams delayed. Though not without beauty, the bitter cold and the months of gray bleakness can wear you down. On the other hand, summer seems like the season when the promises of life finally arrive in full glory. And spring? It’s the transition between these extremes when bleakness slowly, grudgingly, gives way to brightness. It’s a “both-and” season of pain and promise…an “already, but not yet” time of hardship and hope. Spring still feels a lot like winter but gives lively colored hints that summer is really, truly ahead.
I know people who are in a long winter of delayed hopes. Like my dear friend whose young daughter is very sick with a mysterious illness that has baffled the best medical professionals in the country. Or like another friend who just moved out of her foreclosed home after the business she’d poured everything into failed. And then there are the people of Japan who have lost so much, and so many, in the unspeakably tragic earthquake and tsunami. The winter of deferred hopes can seem long, indeed.
As a person of faith in God, if (like scripture says) I am metaphorically “like a tree,” then I want to be like the trees on my street this spring: often rain-soaked by winter sorrows—yet determinedly, colorfully proclaiming that summer is sure to come.
The source for this budding hope is a deeply rooted faith in the God who entered the winter of our world through His Son, Jesus. Even when He experienced death by being nailed to a tree, His resurrection ushered in a season of spring in the hearts of those who believe. I’ll admit, life still feels very winterish at times…but in this spring season of “both-and”, I’m pulling out the pink and watching for summer.
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