I am working on writing content for a retreat that I will be doing on February 4th at the Midway United Methodist Church in Cumming, Georgia. It will focus on finding your voice in every season of life, and the four seasons will create the framework for the experience. We will explore the summer season as a time to be still and know that he is God and find rest in allowing God to act on our behalf while we wait and watch. Our fall focus will be on the abundant and bountiful harvest that comes with life in Christ. As we move into winter, we will have an opportunity to die to things that separate us from God, so that in the spring session, we can celebrate renewed life in Christ as we anticipate the resurrection.
As I write, work, and dream about this event, a line from a favorite hymn keeps popping into my mind:
“In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be! Unrevealed until its season…something God alone can see.”
These beautiful words from Natalie Sleeth’s Hymn of Promise speak of all kinds of good things. They remind us that cold Januarys turn into sunny Junes. They speak of change. They offer promise. They speak of God’s ability to see our potential when all we see is failure. They tell us about growth. Most of all, these words speak of the promise of the resurrection.
I can remember the first time I sang this song. It was at a funeral in my church in Georgia. I recall standing in our sanctuary on Windgate Rd. and looking out at the people who had gathered to say goodbye to their loved one. Sleeth’s imagery in the midst of death struck a chord with me that day that has reverberated each time I have sung it, as it speaks to a reality of life and death that we would rather not consider.
Consider the final verse:
“In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity; In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity. In our death, a resurrection; at the last a victory…”
Sleeth is echoing the truth found in scripture regarding the resurrection:
Romans 6 (The Message)
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.
10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
I think the idea of dying paralyzes us, and we become frozen-in-place.
But maybe even more so, the idea of living is just as paralyzing. Just the IDEA of making necessary changes to the way we live freezes us in fear. The thought of letting go of anger, quitting drinking, releasing a long-held grudge, ending an affair, starting chemo, offering forgiveness to someone who hasn’t asked for it and doesn’t deserve it…. we become immobilized in our determination to not have to alter how we live in any way.
God wants so much more for us than that. This passage sets forth a challenge: we die with Christ, and we also live with Christ…but the life he lives, he lives for God.
So should we.
We are stuck in cocoons of unhealthy habits and thoughtless words, but Sleeth likens us to butterflies who will soon be set free. We live in the darkness of our selfish behavior, but she reminds us we are just the ”dawn that waits to be.” In Sleeth’s poetry, we are a potential of something only God can see in us.
It’s time to thaw out. It’s time to warm up and become the people God intended us to be: loving, giving, full of promise, ready to grow in him, and ready to be set free.
What will you do today to respond to God’s call to unfreeze your life? Is God calling you to make changes that will reveal your hidden promise? How can you be like Jesus and live your life for God?
How about we start today? Let’s get moving.
”… unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see!”
Butterflies Will Soon Be Free by Kathy Schumacher