Winter can feel so dead when seeing the trees, gray and bare, seemingly lifeless against the flat whitewashed sky. Within those outstretched branches one can find that last withered leaf still clinging, albeit weakly to its post, determined to defy the season. I cannot help but see a bit of myself in that one leaf.
I have come to survive many a winter season, physically and emotionally. But it was in a recent, longer than desired, weathering that I had this epiphany. Winter is not only what it appears to be on the surface: frozen, bitter and bleak, but also what cannot be seen—life teeming underneath.
A tree doesn’t cease to live during the winter months, rather it is still very much alive, taking the seasonal opportunity to focus on replenishing its energy, deepening its roots, and resting for the time of fruit-bearing to come. I finally accept the reality that it is impossible on this side of heaven for me to bear fruit all the time. Like a tree or hibernating animal, I must have seasons when I allow myself to dial it back, suspending my normal pace of life. These are times when I make a choice to slow down and take rest more seriously, receiving it as the gift it is.
I cut back on the number of activities depleting me in order to allow myself a season of restorative hibernation. This might mean less hours spent working, volunteering, or hosting in exchange for more time spent focusing my energies on my own wellbeing by seeking out that which is life-giving. I pull out my wooly socks, flannel pajamas, crock pot recipes, and keep the warm tea on tap while I cozy up on the couch to read a cherished book, call a friend, journal, or evaluate. All of these in a small but profound way replenish my humanity within a season that might look like it doesn’t have much to offer.
Instead of seeing winter as a punishment to endure, I have come to consider it a very tangible grace. It is a visual reminder to me that rest, reflection, and inner work is key.
I am only human, not made to bear fruit incessantly. Winter is that season when, like a tree, I gather up my energies and dive into the things that replenish me without feeling guilty or selfish. In fact, it is strategic to nourish my soul, for by doing so, I will have more to give when the time for harvest is right.
Winter is when richness is gathered and stored in such a manner to achieve future production. If I set such high expectations to bear fruit all the time, the harvest will likely be small, tasteless, and stretched thin because the fruit was created from depleted resources and perhaps even a bitter root. Rather than quantity, the quality of the fruit makes all the difference; being that much sweeter, long-lasting, and all around more desirable. One can easily see and taste the difference in a fruit gradually ripened within its natural season versus one forced to mature in a man-controlled environment.
While it may seem desirable to have access to harvested goods year-round, nature wasn’t created to operate in this way. And, I dare to say, we are no different. Winter serves as a gracious reminder to abide in this created rhythm, allowing the necessary cycle to run its full course, so that we can thrive and produce fruit with lasting impact.
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