Autumn leaves fall like confetti around our Kentucky home. The trees stand tall and brave as they let go of their identity. No longer are they recognized as an oak or a maple, but just an ordinary tree. They bare themselves in vulnerability to the watching world. The brightly colored leaves hold on as long as they can, but creation knows when it’s time to surrender. All eyes watch as they brace for the winds of change. Oh how beautifully they dance to their grave.
The frost is coming.
On one particular morning last winter, I woke up early. Coffee in hand, I gazed outside to see the ground covered in white. It was the first snow of the season and I was bound and determined the Edwards family would go outside and have fun. I got my children bundled up and ready to go. The so-called “fun” lasted a total of 14 minutes, due primarily to the fact they literally couldn’t move.
When it’s freezing, everything and everyone is forced into hibernation. Stuck. Sometimes when the cold moves in on you, it can feel like death, and oh, how you long to get out.
There is a mysterious kind of beautiful that whispers softly over the glistening snow, yet no life is seen.
Recognizing the Frost in My Heart
Looking out the windowpane was like looking deep into my heart; everything seemed lifeless. No color to be found. Dull. Frozen.
Frozen in doubt.
Frozen in my bad habits. Like nail biting, overeating, disorganization, forgetting my child’s homework…again (sorry, Mrs. Hoak!).
Frozen, paralyzed by the fear of failing, again. I personally know what it’s like to be so “bundled up” with fear that I cannot even try. In fact, often I refuse to try.
Frozen, stuck in the same sinful patterns that seem to stay on repeat (some since my teenage years). Even my face is frozen in a vacant stare and a smile cannot be forced. I find myself daydreaming, checking out, and numbing the pain of the reality that is before me.
Frozen, numb to the things of God.
Frozen, stiff to the advances of God’s grace in my life.
The Answer Is Grace Upon Grace
The Apostle Paul used to embarrass me by lamenting, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” He followed that up with, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7). If the author of much of the New Testament is still sinning, then my goodness, good luck to the rest of us!
Paul was able to write this way because he was preaching a saving grace of God that is not dependent upon anything we do to fix ourselves. His message is that our only hope lies in Jesus’ perfect life and His death in our place. Until the day I die and see Jesus face to face, there will continue to be a battle that rages in my heart. I will sin. I am not a slave to sin, but I will sin every day (even though I do not want to). I am writing a book about the beauty of getting over yourself, and yet in the midst of writing about getting over myself, I ironically see the hypocrisy of my self-love.
In those times of life when we feel frozen we’re like an ice queen, who, with her frozen heart, is standing still. We feel the urge to scream, but we can’t because our lips are blue with frostbite. The sting of frostbite burns even more when you look over the fence and see your neighbor sitting by the fire.
No one wants to be frozen, but God often uses ice to bring out a unique dependence that could be cultivated in no other climate. Frozen, we long for the warmth of God’s love to melt our cold heart. God likes to warm us up when nothing else will so that we see our great need of Him. We are literally frozen and unable to move apart from the work of God in our lives (Paul would use the language of saying that we are “dead in our sin” in Ephesians 2). The recognition of our inability to move is the grace of God, and such poverty in spirit and utter dependence upon Him gives God great glory.
Outside in the midst of a record-breaking, Narnia-looking winter, I saw a tree branch wrapped in layers of ice crystals. In my curiosity (and wrestling with God), I snapped off part of the branch, and there in the midst of layers of ice was life! Green, flowing, moving. This tree was not dead; no, it was pushing through the earth’s dark soil, deeper, firmer, and fuller.
Women, you may feel frozen, but there is life moving through you. The blood that flowed from the veins of Christ is beating a warming rhythm in your chest. Take hope and know that it is God who brings the snow and the ice. He brings the chill not to harm us, but to open our eyes to our need for Him.
After all, rarely do we truly appreciate the gift of warmth until we’ve spent time in the bitter cold.
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