For months it’s been dark and getting darker when I leave the house in the morning to walk my youngest to the bus stop. The journey is short – just down to the end of the cul-de-sac – and yet, one step out under the pre-dawn sky reminds me of the vast mercy that stretches over each new day. Each time we step out onto the driveway, I look for the gentle reflective light of the moon. Each day, the moon is there, even when she’s shy and hides behind the clouds. My daughter and I see who will find her first, then we point out what stars and planets we can find.
I dread getting up early and sigh over having to bundle up and head out into the elements. But there’s something about the cold air, and stepping out into the last threads of darkness and night that also beckons me. The air is a “wake up!” announcement for my lungs and body. I breathe it in and feel my need for it.
Venus shines like a beacon in the early morning sky these days – she stood watch during the transition between fall and winter. Before dawn, she’s there, like a divine reminder that there’s beauty to uncover in the seasons I resist.
I’m not a scientist, nor am I knowledgeable in astronomy. However, I believe that God speaks to us through everything He’s lovingly created. On days when I pay attention, I find love notes in the quiet sky I would never have chosen to witness in the first place.
This year, I’ve felt winter quietly permeating my being and inner world. Alongside the festivities and fun, I’ve been carrying a deep ache for people I love with struggles that cannot be fixed in the way I would choose if I could. I feel such an ongoing ache for the world as I read and take in news headlines. There are Palestinian children buried under rubble and a genocide keeps unfolding — just one of countless global tragedies unfurling every day. In the same small space on my phone where I read the news, I get a text message about a BOGO-free deal that communicates more urgency than the news headlines about war and devastation. The reality of living in a “May the odds be ever in your favor” culture alongside such horror and destruction feels like a madness too heavy to bear.
Last year at this time, I read Katherine May’s book Wintering, and it was such a kind and wise guide for me. I re-read a few chapters this week to remind myself of what I appreciated and needed last winter. This year, I need it again.
“Doing those deeply unfashionable things — slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting — is a radical act now, but it is essential. This is a crossroads we all know, a moment when you need to shed a skin. If you do, you’ll expose all those painful nerve endings and feel so raw that you’ll need to take care of yourself for a while. If you don’t, then that skin will harden around you.” -Katherine May
I’m reminded that though joy and pain can co-exist, and it almost feels trendy to say so, Jesus came into a world with layers of pain He did not fix overnight. He lived through it all in the same way we do now. Year after year He grew and navigated these tensions and oppression, pain and sadness. Jesus made room for the winter seasons of the soul. In His sermon on the mount, in Matthew 5:1-12, He said that those of us who struggle, those who are sad – the ones who are living through dark winters and do not run from them – are blessed.
It’s not the triumphant, popular, goal-crushing, or outwardly happy ones who are closest to Him – it’s the ones who are almost done for inside, the ones who are grieving things lost, the ones who are without and in need, the ones who are lonely and hungry for love, the ones who care so much their hearts feel like they will break under the weight of it all, the ones who stay tethered to love like a child, the ones who are underestimated and ridiculed for their faith.
I read that Venus’ surface is hot enough to melt lead. She’s covered with volcanoes and raw heat – she spins in the opposite direction of our planet. I imagine her angry over having no shifts, no seasons, no anticipation for anything different than what is, no relief – only the kind of fire that burns and devours life. I think of how often I’ve wished winter seasons away. Yet, how much have I missed by doing so?
May we winter and be sad. May we winter as needed, knowing we do not do so without the nearness of Jesus.