My friend (and pastor) Peggy loves being outdoors, but only when it’s warm. I watch her all winter long, wrapped in warm coats and hats and gloves, frozen, longing for the temperature to rise and for things to bud and turn green. When it finally happens, when spring arrives, Peggy will spend hours outside, digging, pruning, planting, watering, nurturing. Making her yard beautiful even as she finds renewal in her soul.
And even though I’m not a much of an outdoor person, and even though I don’t like to work in my yard, I do understand. It’s discouraging when we look out the window, day after day, at gray, dripping, soggy skies, sodden ground, dirty snow. Sometimes during the winter we lose our sense of joy, letting outward circumstances cloud our perceptions. Our bodies and our minds respond to the drabness of the weather, and we close in on ourselves, shutting out the world.
But at some point during the winter, things start to change. They’re subtle clues we may not be consciously aware of — but suddenly it feels like spring is on its way. Out of nowhere, even if it’s still cold and gray, spring is on our minds. Our emotions become buoyant.
I think that the hope God promises feels a lot like spring. Something rises up inside and makes us feel as though life is full of possibilities. Our souls leap for joy when we see a flower bud appear seemingly out of nowhere. The very air feels different, refreshing instead of stale. Having been shut in for so long, wrapped in layers of warmth, our bodies pull us outside, into the air, exulting in the warmth and the potential and the promise of spring. The earth seems to be shouting that there are great things to come. We begin waiting with expectation, no longer dragging our feet or feeling like it will be months before there is any relief. We have hope. Promise. Possibility. Expectation. And with our renewed hope comes renewed faith, because faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. We don’t have to see it to know it’s on its way.