I’ll be completely honest, I hate winter. Not just because I hate the snow, although I really do hate the snow. It’s always funny to me how the snow can make functioning in society even more difficult than it sometimes already is. But mainly, it’s the cold. It’s the bitter and angry winds that tear into my soul, taking every ounce of warmth that lies within. I’ve always associated winter with death, even at the risk of sounding too dramatic. And when all of life has fallen from each limb, when the colors of a beautiful fall fade into nothing, darkness covers what once was joy in my heart. Winter to me is the death of summer. It’s the official end of what has come to be the most important time in my life.
Over the last three summers, I’ve been the head counselor at a Salvation Army camp in southern Ohio, an experience that has changed my life. I’ll never forget my first summer. I was getting ready to leave for camp. I had no car, no way of knowing how I would even get to the camp, or who I would be friends with. I was going alone, heading to a place I had never been, to do a job I had never done. The feeling of being in over my head was creeping on me as I prepared to take one of the biggest leaps of faith in my life. But it was that leap which marked the beginning of a real relationship with God. And three summers later, I’ve grown in ways I would have never thought possible. I’ve learned much about my self along the road of a three year spiritual journey. But the most important lessons were about the essence of who I was serving. The God of the universe, creator of all things, wanted to use me.
The summer represents a time in my life when everything seemed to be as it should. It was a time in which I felt used. To be used for the glory of God’s kingdom is an unbelievably unique experience. To be honest, there’s nothing on earth like it. And for me to have been chosen by God to help bring heaven on earth was a privilege.
But the summer doesn’t last forever. It fades into fall, and fall fades into winter into winter as the feelings of purpose fade from my heart. An unforgettable summer experience gets buried by the snow, becoming merely a memory. And I begin to lose myself, forgetting who I am, and who I was created to be.
There’s something to be said about our primitive desire to be used.
The winter is brutal. It’s when I stop seeing myself through the eyes of God, but instead, through the eyes of my peers. More than that, I begin to feel my hand slipping away from His. What used to be an intimate relationship with my loving creator becomes merely an awkward acquaintanceship. His love is evident by the abundance of grace He never ceases to show. But any sense of my deeper understanding of Him, and more importantly, who I am through Him gets lost.
One of the biggest mistakes I make in my relationship to God is comparing Him to my peers. I do this especially after I sin. I put up a shield and try and hide from Him after I commit my crimes. I even try to convince myself that He isn’t watching. Then I avoid all communication with Him, ashamed to be in His presence. We don’t get it. We don’t understand the love of God. God is nowhere close to the vicinity of our human condition. We fail to realize that in our darkest (and coldest) moments, God is not the one who leaves our side. We’re the ones who unfortunately stray away like sheep. When I feel like my life is mundane and pointless my initial response is to fall into my old ways of thinking and sinful habits. I begin to lean on my own understandings. I begin to live in the center of myself.
It’s pretty easy sometimes throughout the course of life to forget the simple promises of God. Not just when I’m at a summer camp and feel important but especially on the days that I don’t. I’m reminded this year that every second we exist is full of purpose and meaning. My life even in the most trivial of times should be focused on nothing more than bringing glory to God. As I prepare for future winters ahead perhaps I’ll keep in mind what it truly means to be a child of God. We are under the canopy of a magnificent Father. And to be reminded there is a time for everything and season for every activity under heaven (Ecc.3:1.) Even winter.