by: Jill Piteo
My grandma was one of the only people I know who disliked fall. She called it, “The death of summer.” As a child, I thought that was such a depressing thought, especially from my grandma, a joyful freight train of energy.
As I start to notice summer blending into fall, I am starting to see where she was coming from. Fall is amazing, don’t get me wrong. Crisp breezes, turning leaves, hay rides, apple picking, football, pumpkin spice everything…fall is completely LOVABLE! Yet, I can’t shake the thought that after fall comes winter, and in Northeast Ohio, winter can feel like a never ending slog toward spring. Yes, the first couple snowfalls are beautiful, no doubt. There is tobogganing and hot chocolate and snowmen. But December thru April, the sun makes spotty appearances. The worst part of winter is the lack of light.
I find it no coincidence that when God created Earth, he included the cycle of the seasons. It mirrors life. In spring, everything is fresh and new, tender and sweet, like a newborn baby. Spring is like the toddler who puts their shoes on backwards, or a young child learning to ride a bike. Nothing is full grown yet, but everything is in bloom and beautiful. Hope abounds.
Spring transitions into summer the way childhood transitions into young adulthood. Everything is flourishing under the warm sun. Energetic, productive, strong.
Summer blends into fall the way a person in midlife is caught off guard that they are in midlife. It’s a time of harvest! All that energy, productivity and strength of summer has produced families, lifelong friends, a more complete sense of self, and a stronger faith produced from those summer storms.
Then winter is ushered in. The leaves and blossoms fade, the days grow shorter, the energy fades. After seasons of sowing, reaping and harvest, the earth is tired and rolls back into itself, preparing for a new season.
Maybe, aside from anticipating the cold, dreary months of winter, grandma saw that her was light was fading too. The fact that we DO NOT LIKE TO THINK ABOUT DEATH is a huge understatement. As I straddle the line between the summer and autumn of my own life, I don’t get excited about my winter. I don’t like to think about my body breaking down. I don’t get jazzed about thinking about those around me starting to die, and certainly, my own death has become more real as I am closing in on middle age, and see that I am certainly not getting younger.
The winter of 2018-19 was one of the worst winters on record as far as my heart was concerned. A metaphorical killing frost had come suddenly, and decimated so many things that had been blossoming in my life. Every day was literally and emotionally dark. I felt heavy, cold and turned inward.
We will all go though winters. Seasons of darkness. Those killing frosts will come unexpectedly. No one can anticipate them except God.
We will all die. We can’t anticipate that either. Only God knows.
Where is the hope in all this? Where is the good?
Sometimes I wonder what it must have been like for Peter and John, to have experienced all that they did, and yet watch in horror as Jesus took his last gasping breath. He died! HE DIED.
I can’t imagine how Paul and John processed what they had witnessed. Jesus was dead. That three year run of teaching and miracles from the Son of Man was all over. It was finished. Did they walk home, trying to sort it all out, their minds restless and whirling and their hearts crushed?
Did they wake up the next morning, joyful for a split second before they remembered and then they were suddenly drowning in waves of grief? Were their eyes dark with tears? It was the worst of the worst kind of winter for Peter and John too.
Yet the seasons keep cycling. You don’t face a winter without the hope of spring.
As Peter and John walked around in a fog of “this can’t be real,” something unbelievable was happening in the tomb. Death was no longer the end of Jesus’ story or ours.
It looked like winter would always be the last stop for humanity. But because of Jesus, we no longer face a winter without the hope of spring.
What appears to be dead will stand up again. This is a promise secured by Jesus Christ in his resurrection.
It’s no coincidence that Easter is in spring.
We did a family prayer walk recently. It was our first time doing it, and we walked around the center of town, asking people if we could pray for them. It was super awkward, but also surprisingly life-giving. Most people were receptive, even if they had no requests. Then we ran into an elderly man, sitting tiredly on a bench in front of Champs Sports. His back was hunched, his head was down. He seemed like the perfect candidate for some loving attention and prayer. Jason asked if there was anything going on with him that we could pray for. His rheumy eyes became frighteningly electric, and he angrily said, “That won’t do you any good.”
We politely moved away, but I am still thinking about this man days later. What happened in his life that he lost hope? What must his days be like that he has come to the last days of his winter, his body failing and his outlook angry? What must it be like to come to the end of one’s life and see no hope. He was once a little boy that laughed, once a teen that loved, once an adult that may have had a job, home, family. Yet at the end, he became an angry man on a bench, barking at strangers.
If I could go back, covered in a thicker skin, I would have loved to ask him why he thought prayer would do no good. I would have loved to hear his story about what brought him to the place he is in. I would have loved to explain to him about the seasons, and how through Christ, he’s about ready to enjoy an eternal Spring.
But I can’t. So instead, I pray for him. That God would crack his heart of stone and plant a gospel seed. A resurrection seed.
The gift of hope. The gift of a forever spring. It is a gift. The knowing that there is more to this life than broken hearts and broken bodies. Believing and resting in the work of Christ. His defeat of sin and death and his ability to make all things new. He can take broken hearts and make them beautifully whole. He can take physical death and turn it into eternal life.
You don’t face a winter without the hope of spring.
It’s no coincidence that Easter is in spring.