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Thoughts from a fellow pilgrim...

Beautiful in Its Time...Even Winter
"The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them;
and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing...
they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God."

~Isaiah 35:1-2~

We have had a long and trying winter here in the Midwest. It's been many years since repeated blizzards have formed such deep drifts and the cold weather has been quite so tenacious. A number of cancelled events and sliding-into-the-ditch adventures have given me a new appreciation and longing for the life and beauty of spring: for velvety buds and leaves unfolding...for brave little shoots of grass poking their way out of the mud...for trees full of winged music that cannot be contained...for warm sunshine on my face and soft breezes that tug at my hair...for the fragrance of those first fragile blossoms that at long last are unveiled...for the reminder that God's promises are always fulfilled in the fullness of time.

Waiting for the change of seasons has given me a new perspective on the promise of Ecclesiastes 3:11: "He hath made every thing beautiful in his time..." God has been showing me that, in many ways, my dreams and desires are like a flower bulb, having been placed in the soil of my heart by the loving hand of the Chief Gardener Himself. Because they are from Him, these desires are good; I need not (indeed, cannot!) deny their existence. But I must take care to not let my anticipation for the blossoms make me impatiently demand that the bulb be allowed to grow now. Yes, the flower will be beautiful, and yes, I look forward to seeing what it will be like and enjoying it. But it must not grow before its time! A premature growth is almost sure to freeze and die long before the full flower is formed. It will only be beautiful in its time.

The Chief Gardener is the only one who knows just when that time is, for I am essentially without a calendar. I may have some sensing of the air temperature and sunshine, but I don't know if it is just a warm spell in mid-winter or if I truly am feeling the breath of springtime. It is also useless for me to worry that springtime has passed me by and the heat of summer will soon be here to scorch the life from any attempted growth. The Gardener knows the exact necessary conditions for the flower's most vibrant growth and life—only He knows the exact second in which growth must begin.

All my attempts to speed up the process (such as excessive watering or over-fertilization) will only result in damaging the fragile bulb—and possibly the future flower as well. All must be left entirely in the control of the Chief Gardener.

Meanwhile, my role is simply to enjoy the beauty that currently fills my garden:

  • the glittering sparkle of fresh snow in the sunlight
  • the unrivalled brilliant blue of a frozen, cloudless sky
  • a steaming mug of hot chocolate clasped in tingling hands
  • delicate shadow patterns traced by tree branches
  • frosty white trees on foggy mornings
  • sledding on a steep hill, screaming all the way down
  • the intricate footprints left by birds and rabbits
  • the homey smell of wood smoke in crisp air
  • the crunching of snow under sturdy boots
These are joys that can only be found in this winter season. I must not fret over the lack of flowers—their season comes soon enough. I don't want to look back later with regrets, realizing what I missed simply because I thought I could not be happy without flowers. Jim Elliot phrased it this way: "Let not our longing slay our appetite for living." Today is good because God has made it...and He does all things well. Everything is beautiful in its time. The Chief Gardener never, ever leaves our gardens completely stripped of beauty—there is always some sign of His handiwork if we but look for it.

And here's the exciting part—as I purpose to enjoy wintertime and stop fretting over the lack of flowers, I will be able to see the Chief Gardner as never before. By thanking Him for the beauty I see all around me, my eyes will be opened to a fresh recognition of His creative love. In time, I will come to thank Him for the comparatively barren winter months, because they have revealed to me the true treasure of a relationship with Him.

Meanwhile, I never know what is going on just out of my view. The bulb may have already started to grow; it could pop out of the ground at any moment. Doubtless it will happen when I least expect it, for the Chief Gardener delights in sending lovely surprises my way.

But even though the winter may be much, much longer than I had dreamed possible, the bulb will grow. It may not be the kind of flower I had anticipated (indeed, I may not even recognize it at all at first!)—but the promise will be fulfilled. God-given dreams are fulfilled; the visions He gives are not in vain.

Someday I will realize that my deepest desires and dreams have all been fulfilled according to God's own perfect will and wisdom. In their time they will all be beautiful, and far more so than I have begun to imagine. L.M. Montgomery beautifully captured this hope when she wrote, "It is always safe to dream of spring. For it is sure to come; and if it be not just as we have pictured it, it will be infinitely sweeter."
Praise to the Lord, who o'er all things
so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings,
yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen
how thy desires e'er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

—Joachim Neander
Springtime and flowers are truly worth waiting for...but, meanwhile, let's enjoy winter as it lingers, shall we? God is in control and we are indeed very blessed here and now.

Learning to trust His timing,

This editorial was published in the April-June 2008 issue of Hidden Wisdom Magazine, copyright 2008, Abigail Paul.
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