Well, once again, many weeks have passed since my last blog post! I'm not sure what happened to the concepts of quiet winter evenings by the woodstove, but they have been rather infrequent around here!
To be honest, though, my busy schedule hasn't been the only reason that I didn't write. There just didn't seem to be much to write about. The view from the kitchen window could be described as variations on the theme of brown, and my schedule, although full, has been the same way. At least, from the kitchen window view.
Yesterday I actually pulled on my boots and went for a walk, to explore that world of brown.
The fields and I have had a new kinship lately. An early thaw melted the snow, leaving hummocks of dead grass, punctuated by muddy patches, ingloriously exposed. When dressed by a scouring wind, and overshadowed by gray skies, the fields provide a perfect environment for musing on all that is wrong with oneself. I've come to appreciate the unadorned humility of the world at this season. Never was it more shabby and miserable. The refreshing thing about humility is that it is nothing but the truth. The exciting thing about humility is that it is all that's required for the growth that a wise God desires to bring about. Never were the fields closer to the explosion of beauty and fruitfulness that we call summer.
As I trudged along the muddy cow paths, marked with tracks that were frozen into the ground last fall, I began looking for any beauty that could be discovered. And I found it! There was beauty in the faithful evergreens, proving that the otherwise bare woods were not dead. There was beauty in the variations of dull green and brown juxtaposed on neighboring slopes. There was a certain beauty in the dark fingers that streaked the ice on the pond, betraying that the sun had begun undoing the lock that concealed the glistening water beneath. In one pond, it had already been victorious, and the open water, roughened by the gusty wind, was chewing at the ragged edges of ice that remained. I wandered toward the sound of a little brook that ran through a drainage pipe into a small area of woods. With a surge of delight, I saw that the water was running free now, leaping joyfully into the pool. The cap of ice that once enclosed it, had fallen away.
The giggling brook, the green that has started creeping into the fields, the melting ice, all betray the great changes that are beginning to come about beneath the drab exterior. The weeks seem to pass in a monotony of half-hearted frosts and dripping rain, mud that freezes at night and ferments during the day, fed by reluctantly eroding snowbanks. Occasionally a violent windstorm provides an exclamation point, tearing down some dead branches and making everything tumultuous. But otherwise, the changes are subtle and hidden. The orientation of the earth's axis to the sun changes a few degrees, the days get a few minutes longer, the ice crystals underground begin to melt.
There isn't much hope or excitement in the kitchen window view. But the rubber boot tour reveals the beginnings of something grand, something so wonderful that it seems completely impossible in such a dingy landscape.
Recently I discovered a verse that whispers of spring coming, of big things beginning to happen while the rain is still dripping and the ice melting. "For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, Nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him." (Isa 64:4)
The kitchen window view: me, in a constant battle between faith and discontentment, sunshine and rain. Spending my days cooking meals that are eaten in a flash, washing laundry that's dirty again in twelve hours, changing linens and writing down vital signs at work, trying to figure out what to cook, and dealing with the frustrations and difficulties of daily life, thinking that my share of annoyances should provide enough grit to produce several strings of pearls. Noticing how exciting and dramatically useful some people's lives are, and recognizing that there's a whole lot of the old sinful flesh in what other people admiringly call my service. Drip, drop, slip, slop, slush, slosh, brown, browner, brownest. Just like spring!
But then, there's the rubber boot tour: A loving God in heaven, Who knows exactly what each of my days hold. (Psalm 139:1-4) The sunshine of His love at work in my life, beginning to melt the icy spots, and turn hard ground into usable soil (it's in the mud stage right now). The winds of inconvenience and exhaustion, breaking off dead branches and tearing away sodden leaves. The greenness of fellowship with God, beginning to brighten the brown fields.
One day soon, I'll look out the kitchen window and be startled by fields of waving grass, fringed by leafy forests, and bathed in warm sunlight. I'll say, "How did summer get here all of a sudden?" Yet I'll know there was no "all of a sudden" about it, but long, boring weeks of dull, imperceptible change.
And I can't help but think, with a thrill of anticipation, that during these days of waiting and trying to simply be joyously faithful, God is acting on my behalf, just like Isaiah says. Someday, and perhaps it won't be long, He'll let me in on the secret of what work He's preparing me for. He's already told me His over-arching goal, which is for me "to become conformed to the image of His Son." (Romans 8:29) But even His Son had a specific work to do here on earth. At some point "beforehand," God prepared good works for me to do. (Ephesians 2:10) I'll admit I'm getting pretty eager to find out what they are!
The knowledge that summertime is on its way lends beauty and purpose to the rain and even the mud. The knowledge that God is working on my behalf, lends joy to the waiting. I'll keep my rubber boots on for a while yet.