“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” -Anne Bradstreet
Winter can really suck. We get sick of the cold, sick of the snow, sick of being cooped up inside with nowhere to go. It’s the season of seasonal depression, weight gain, and general boredom. There isn’t the same zest for life in the winter—as evidenced by every social media newsfeed from December through February. People just want it see and feel the sun.
But where would we be without winter?
Winter allows a time for reflection and a time of anticipation. Winter acts as a pause button. It feels a little like you’re living in slo-mo. It’s gives us time to take a breath, reflect on the year that has passed, and look forward in anticipation to spring. I love living in a place with four seasons, because each season has its own personality. Each season has a purpose. I love that I get to experience winter because it gets me excited about spring and flowers and sun and warmth.
Experiencing the grayness of winter allows us to better engage with the color and rejuvenation offered in spring, summer, and fall. To me, winter is a reminder of the valleys of life. The not-so-nice spots of life. Some moments and seasons of life can be challenging, but when you make it out of those seasons and find yourself in spring, the joy and hope of that new season is exponentially greater having gone through the valley. To me, this is most evident in observing trees through each season.
During a run back in the beginning of this winter season, I spent some time looking up at the trees and admiring their simple beauty. There they were, stripped bare of any leaves or flowers, stripped bare of the vibrant fall colors, and left to stand there stark and ultimately naked. Have you ever stopped to admire them in the middle of a frigid winter day? It’s like they have been stripped down to their authentic essence. Free of all the bells and whistles of flowers and leaves. They are just there. Being. Waiting for spring. [Confession: I have a slight obsession with trees. And by slight, I more accurately mean a severe obsession.]
As I looked at the trees my mind continued to think back on the past few years; the first few years of marriage for me. Marriage is a wonderful in so many ways, but it’s also an incredibly difficult and challenging thing. Through the struggles of the last several years, we have been stripped down by challenges such as a major move or financial burdens. At times it seemed debt would never disappear, and we would never get out of our funk.
But as the earth begins to thaw, the hope of spring begins to well up. We begin to see the result of our labor spring up. Without winter, without the struggles, would the springtime be as bright? As inviting? Would we be able to see what we have or just take it all for granted?
In the movie The Giver, Jonah learns to feel and experience emotion. He receives all the happy memories, the joy, and color, but he also receives the hard, not-so-nice ones. However, with winter came spring. In the end, he wouldn’t dare go back to life in the middle or life without emotion. He wanted joy, of course. But, with joy also comes pain. He knew they were a package deal. The joy was stronger because the pain existed.
Sometimes we can’t see past the winter we find ourselves in the middle of—both the literal and figurative sense—but I encourage you to hold on to the idea and anticipation of spring. No temperature freeze or blizzard should stop the joy and life of spring. In fact, it really will make it sweeter.