Looking ahead into the new year of 2013, I’ve pulled a reflection from my latest book Cultivating God’ Garden through Lent. From the past I share a lesson of timing.
Unexpected Warmth (Wednesday of the First Week of Lent)
New Years Day 2011
Leaning against the dented aluminum siding near the back door were snow shovels and a covered pail of deicer. They had replaced the garden spade and rake. It was the beginning of January, and here in the upper Midwest it’s usually bitter cold and often covered with snow and ice. Last week Christmas was white and offered familiar images often seen on seasonal cards. The snow glistened in the sun and at night sparkled with colors from decorative outdoor lights. In the rural areas that surround my home, the fields glowed with the light from the moon.
Winter moved in as it always does. The plants go dormant and my immediate world slows and I become quieter. It is a peace-filled time after the bustle of Christmas. It is the time of year when I draw down and snuggle into a nest of pillows. Wrapped in an afghan I read, pray, reflect, and imagine.
This year appeared to be no different. Six inches of snow had fallen two days ago, adding a fresh layer to the existing three. The new snow framed the crèche of the outdoor nativity, my inheritance from my grandmother’s garage. Outside my window the birds were perched on the Serviceberry’s branches near the feeders, with their feathers puffed up and little heads drawn down.
Today, though, was unusual for winter. The steady rain occasionally worked itself into a downpour. It wasn’t a freezing rain but one that thawed. It was nearly fifty degrees outside. Rivulets of water grew into large flowing puddles as the snow and ice melted, flooding the road and ditches. It was also the first time I had experienced a thunderstorm on New Year’s Day. It was a turbulent and forceful storm, the garden-chimes dancing and jerking with each gust.
The second day after the rains and warm temperatures, the lawn and Creeping Veronica showed green instead of their depleted winter tan. Even the cardinals and finches were singing. It was an unexpected gift creating a hope-filled feeling of spring.
I sensed awkwardness about this feeling—a falseness—and recognized it as fleeting joy. This unusual warm spell was an event out of sync; it brought short-term happiness that was not in balance with nature. It was not the appropriate time for the gift of spring. The truth was that this aberrant weather could cause more harm than good by encouraging sap to flow and buds to set, too tender to survive the impending cold to come.
I recalled times in my life where immediate gratification did not bring a continuing happiness. Those events too were a gift out of season, often bearing false hope. And on occasions when impulsiveness trumped clarity of thought, they did more harm than good.
There is a lasting joy in waiting and in hoping for a gift in due season. Timing matters, and the timing that matters most is God’s timing. I recognized the masquerade of those past few days for what they were: a foreshadowing of what was to come and not the true event that it pretended to be.
I love spring with all of its new life and developing growth. I appreciate it even more after a long winter of rest.
“At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s newfangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows.”
~William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost