Last spring I had the treat of attending a day long gardening workshop with Christine Sine in Seattle. She and her husband Tom work with Mustard Seed Associates (MSA) which is a community of Jesus’ followers all over the world striving to create the future one mustard seed at a time. Christine also blogs regularly here.
As the kids and I spent last Thursday with dear friends who live an hour north of us, Kim opened the book we’d received at that garden workshop and reminded me of Christine’s words on pruning trees in the winter:
“Why, I wonder, do we prune our fruit trees in the winter when they seem so bare and vulnerable? Or probably more to the point, why does God insist on pruning our lives during the difficult winters or suffering that we all endure? Winter pruning, like autumn planting, encourages roots to go down deeper and strengthens the tree. The harder we prune, the more vigorous the spring growth and the greater the harvest.
God often plants us in places where winter is coming or prunes us during the frigid seasons of struggle and pain, when the branches seem bare and our souls feel most vulnerable. If we really want to be fruitful during the seasons of harvest that God allows us, then we need to be willing to be pruned and shaped not during the times that life is good – when we can handle a little painful cutting – but during winter when we feel spring will never come again…
My mother has always reminded me that struggle and challenge in life produce character – and more than once I’ve told her “But I don’t want any more character, I think I’m done.” It may sound prideful now, but at the time all I meant was this is too hard…I don’t see how I’ll make it through…it simply hurts too much. In Christine’s workbook (now an ebook), she includes this quote from Jean Vanier as she writes about winter:
We must go through winters of suffering, through times when prayer is hard and people no longer attract us, but spring is not far away. A death in the family, a failure at work, a sickness which brings a new way of life, an unfaithful friend, all these are wounds to the heart that take us into a period of darkness. The darkness is important. We must learn to accept this winter as a gift from God and we will discover that the snow will melt and the flowers come up.
I needed that reminder.
Three years ago we walked through some serious darkness – a winter that seemed to last a couple of years. And now since experiencing healing and restoration that only God is capable of, it has felt like a long season of promise and new growth. No where near perfection. But somewhere closer to grace.
The cold air of winter may be blowing on my face today. My heart feels like it’s been taken apart at the moment. But my head (and good friend) remind me what I know to be true.
God’s goodness and His unfailing love do not depend on the season we are walking in.