The change has begun. There are colors strewn haphazardly on the ground, the wind moving them about at will. One strong gust sends a fresh wave of papery leaves twirling to the ground. They never hurry; they simply meander, as though they have all the time in the world to reach the ground. Early in the morning the air is perfectly cool — sometimes crisp. Soon the air will always be crisp and breath will linger in the air.
The time is coming for soft, cosy scarves. Coats that hug you like a blanket. Hot cocoa. Roaring fires. Short days. Long nights. The full-to-the-brim excitement that comes with the first snow. It is coming.
It is coming!
“But why do you like fall and winter?” I’ve been asked many times this week. Usually the inquisitive soul asks because he or she can’t, to save his or her life, determine why anyone would dare to like these dreadful seasons when spring and summer are clearly superior. 🙂 While the things I mentioned above do, in fact, warm my heart, they aren’t the biggest reason that I appreciate these colder seasons.
If you know me well, you know that I have been through some decent trials in the last three years. I don’t care to rehash them here and now, but suffice it to say that the Lord has taught me something: Sometimes, there are lessons I can only learn when the God of my salvation takes me by the trembling hand and leads me into a dark valley. These treasures are ever-sweeter because of the way I learned them. God has taken me to some very dark places to teach me about my self-sufficiency and the lies I believe about His love for me. But He has always been there, His presence tangible and comforting. I have found Psalm 23 to be true:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
The fact that God is taking the time to discipline me as His child and to shepherd my heart — that comforts me! As the writer of Hebrews says,
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (12:3-11).
My Heavenly Father takes me into darkness, but on the other side I am blessed by the peaceful fruit of HIS righteousness. What an amazing gift! My finite mind isn’t able to comprehend the enormity of this love.
What has this to do with the cooler seasons, you ask? In my life, fall and winter mirror this God-gives-growth-in-the-darkness pattern. Collectively we enter a time that seems like death — the flora fades, many of the fauna hibernate — but in the end produces new, vibrant life. And because I am learning to kiss the wave and to find comfort from God in the darkness, I am comforted again by the long nights, the short days, and the knowledge that something brighter is around the bend.
Since we pulled away from my parents’ home at 6:20 a.m. on July 11, I’ve learned that I have a heart condition. Not the kind that means it doesn’t work correctly, but the kind of condition that was wrought by the Fall in the Garden of Eden. The condition is idolatry.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
I can say with a heavy heart that the last eleven days I have not done this. There have been entire days where I didn’t even acknowledge the Lord in my heart — not His faithfulness toward us, His guiding hand in our lives, nothing. This symptom indicates that my heart has turned to worship something else.
“Idols aren’t just stone statues. No, idols are the thoughts, desires, longings, and expectations that we worship in place on the one true God . . . if they are the source of our joy . . . if they take top priority in our lives, then they are our gods” (Idols of the Heart, p. 23).
Did I set up a shrine to my idol? No, I did not. But since the boxes moved from the truck to our apartment, but thoughts, desires, and longings have been on one thing: getting organized. I have justified this (now and in the past) by saying, “The Lord is a God of order, not of confusion!” I have been convicted that I rip this verse of Scripture from its context; Paul is talking about corporate worship, not home management. Is it a sin to desire to glorify God with an organized, well-run home? No. But in my case it became the “source of [my] joy” — it became an idol. I struggled through the week with a dark, moody cloud hanging over my head.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)
Certainly I have failed to be loving or kind toward my husband, and joy has escaped me at every turn. Patient? Gentle? Self-controlled? Three strikes.
The root of my problem is that I failed to walk in the Spirit, to consult the Lord in all things. I began walking in my own strength and falling at the feet of my idol (organization) every morning. Were it not for the sacrifice of Christ this sinful situation would be hopeless. But praise be to God that this act of idolatry was obliterated at the cross!
What idols do you need to lay at Jesus’ feet this morning? What keeps you from worshiping God fully, and loving Him with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength?
Lord, empty our hearts of the idols that draw us away from You!
Soli Deo Gloria!