Winter and Spring – Erin Hill

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Photo: Again We Say Rejoice Photography

Author: Erin Hill

Every Monday I post a devotion, article, or video from one of my favorite authors, speakers, or ministers. To my delight, my dear friend, Erin Hill agreed to be today’s guest blogger. Erin and I met in youth group in the late 90’s. Our friendship was forged through church retreats, See You At The Pole rallies, and moshing together at D.C. Talk concerts. Erin is poetic, wise, and a masterful writer. I know you’ll be blessed by her contribution to The Well. 

Spring is coming on my street. We had a fairly mild winter in Kentucky, but even so, the gray will get to you. Months of half-light, of bare branches longing for the cheery sprinkle of snow that only ever teases this part of the world. Somehow the gray seeps beneath the surface, below even the thoughts and feelings of the day. There’s something sad and true in it, something weighty. How long?

Then, a speck of color. It starts with grass here, and you think it’s still winter until you notice the bright green beneath your feet. Then small pink and white blossoms, shrubs coming back to life. Today I noticed the smallest of leaves coloring the trees. Sunshine punctuates the rain.

Spring is coming, almost in full bloom—but not quite.

We’re coming to Easter, the greatest rejoicing the world can know, but we’re not there yet.

At times my soul has felt wintery: dull, bare, lifeless. I’ve wondered without answer if God has gone, like light in midwinter. Spring can feel a mockery, and hope a painful unreality. What’s worse, it’s so easy to feel alone, isolated from the joy everyone else seems to have such easy access to.

I’ve often thought we should speak more of these wintery places, the dark nights of the soul we can’t make sense of. But it’s hard to talk about unresolved questions, and it seems contemporary American Christian culture fears straying too far from being “blessed,” even in hard times. Is there a place for doubt? For sadness and ache and longing?

The Psalmist certainly thought so. For every song of rejoicing, there’s a song of pain. The Psalms are full of honest questions, of doubt and struggle.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
(
Psalm 22:1-2)

If I’m honest, these words could often be my words. And I wonder—I wonder if we all have felt forsaken. I wonder if the whole of the Cloud of Witnesses has longed without comfort, asking God why he is so far away. Jesus himself felt forsaken, abandoned by his friends and isolated from God.

I think we miss something when we downplay or skip over these wintery times. While it is true that even in the hardest moments we can rejoice and declare it is well with our souls, doubt and struggle are real even for the surest of saints. Spring is coming, yes—but winter is real. Relationships may begin in joy and ease, but they are really forged in difficulty. It may seem counterintuitive, but our relationship with God grows and deepens through seasons of questioning and ache. Sometimes He works in darkness, shaping us without our knowing, softening and expanding our souls. He’s not worried by our doubts. He understands our yearning.

Easter is coming, but I don’t want to pass over these Lenten days. It’s a paradoxical gift to know we are dust and ash. It’s a bitter sweetness to ask unanswered questions. It takes courage to wait.

Winter may feel lifeless, but beneath the surface a seed is preparing to sprout. It takes time—too much time, it often seems—but what is forged in gray winter blooms in brilliant color. Spring comes when you’re not even looking for it. Resurrection always wins.

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Erin Hill lives 500 yards south of the Mason Dixon Line in Covington, Kentucky so she can still call herself a Southerner. She loves old books, black tea, indie music before and after it’s cool, and pretending to be outdoorsy. She works in aviation operations, and is making valiant attempts to make her English degree count by bringing up T.S. Eliot as much as possible. She’s also a passionate coffee-brewer at Crossroads Church in Cincinnati, and loves hearing and telling the story of a God who makes all things new.

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