I really hate winter. The only redeeming grace about winter, in my mind, is that the frigid weather kills most bugs, and keeps other unwanted bugs from migrating northward! As I am writing, the ice is slowly getting salted off the streets, and the incoming arctic air is supposed to plunge the
temperatures downward overnight. A big snowstorm is forecast for the end of the week. Somehow, with the mild winter we have had thus far, I had convinced myself winter was being held at bay this year. Clearly, I was more hopefully naïve than I was realistic – this is, after all, Iowa!!
In “Ordering Your Private World,” Gordon McDonald uses a farm field as a metaphor for our spiritual life. I don’t have the book in front of me, but his use of the metaphor was so poignant for me that I still remember it. He described the process a farmer goes through in the early spring, to clear the field of rocks and stumps in preparation for the planting. In late spring comes planting, and the summer is full of nurturing, weeding, and preparation of equipment for the fall harvest. Then comes harvest – when all the hard work to date comes to fruition: the farmer works around the clock to strip the fields of their produce, then prepare the harvested fields for the upcoming winter. It is tiring, but tremendously satisfying work! When winter comes, the fields are given some rest – but the work under the surface of the snow continues. During the winter, the farmer reflects on the past seasons, and prepares for a new season. The cold weather and temperature fluctuations shift the ground underneath the fields, so that even as the fields are watered with the melting snow, new rocks surface with the spring thaw. Come springtime, the farmer returns to the fields with renewed hope, vision, and energy, but also has to remove those newly-appeared rocks before moving forward with the new crops.
So it is with our spiritual lives. And, what is true for us as individuals, is also true for us as a congregation. We have seasons of removing those “rocks” that get in the way of our growth. Seasons of strong growth bring great joy, the spiritual benefits for which we must work hard to reap, but result in satisfaction and fulfillment. Seasons of reflection and rest are necessary as well. Take time to “chill out” – to reflect on and name the ways God has grown us. Such times of reflection and gratitude kill the opportunity for “pests” to invade and destroy our crops during seasons of growth. Reflection and rest also prepare us to remove the “rocks” that surface in the next spiritual season.
So I guess there is one more redeeming grace about winter and its numbing cold: it is a great time to slow down and reflect on our journey together, rejoicing in the harvest we have shared thus far, and wondering where God will take us next. Where have we seen God at work in our field over the last year? I have seen so many ways that we, as a congregation, have stepped out in faith and had new crops sown! What has been our “harvest,” and how can we be even more effective in making disciples of Jesus who serve beyond the walls? I have watched as new leaders have emerged, and experienced leaders have grown in their walk with Christ. What “rocks” will we find necessary to remove, so the plow is not damaged as we are planted? What will we plant, and where? Where is our spiritual crop vulnerable? On these cold winter days, take the time to ponder these things in prayer, as you scrape your windshield – again- in the harsh winter wind. Then share them with each other, so that our next “season” in ministry together will be even more bountiful for God’s Kingdom.
To God be the glory! See you in worship!
Yours for the journey,