It’s not winter and it’s not spring and in the valley the fields are pretty ugly (oxymoron intended).
Signs of spring are few; some crabgrass is getting a head start on the gardeners, a few little crocus pop up close to the house, and tiny tiny yellow buttercups bloom in the meadow. I take my camera and go out looking for evidence of change, but to be honest, in this shoulder season, it’s very drab out there.
The deer like our garden in the winter. They come late at night and bed down under the bare plum tree. You can tell this is a favourite place because when the snow melts the brown grass harbours dozens of piles of deer poop. (I’ll spare you the photo.)
Brown rotten leaves that I never got around to raking, or that fell after the first snows made raking pointless, gather in the hollows. They lodge between grey branches and add to the dullness of barren bushes and empty flower beds.
Shrinking piles of snow in the corners of parking lots in town look like speckled black slag heaps from old movies about miserable coal miners. The accumulated garbage of a season once blanketed by pristine white snow emerges on the boulevard like guilty memories of junk food binges after you realize your jeans are too tight.
Don’t get me wrong. I see hope. There is nothing finer than the first afternoon warm enough to sit in the sun and enjoy a good cup of coffee. But the reality of once hidden things that need to be dealt with is hard to ignore, especially the day the ground in the stockyards thaws out.
It’s an ugly season, but it too is a season of grace.
Sometimes God sends us a gift we are not sure that we want after a while. A revealing season is one of them. Sometimes he melts the blanket of lovely white snow that has been covering a lot of nastiness. He reveals what has been hiding under there all along. Transitions can be ugly.
Sometimes he sends people (and attached circumstances) who seem to promise great things. When they come into our lives we welcome them eagerly only to discover that the great things are not so great – at least not yet. Their purpose (of which they are probably totally unaware) may merely be to reveal debris and garbage and piles of poop in our lives that need to be cleaned up so they don’t distract from the great things when they do happen. They may just be part of the unwitting transition team.
My friend and I were praying for a ministry which was having an important meeting. We prayed that God would move mightily. He did. The meeting fell into shouting-match chaos when old resentments and bitterness were revealed like piles of poop that had been under the cover of cool politeness for years. It got ugly. They could not move on until things were cleared up. The board members, being thoroughly humbled, set about to do that.
We don’t always appreciate that a promising new boss, who turns out to be more difficult to work with than the last one, or a new political leader, who seems to be more inept than the former office-holder, may actually be in our lives for a reason. Their whole purpose (of which they are probably totally unaware) may be to be the agent that reveals the garbage we need to deal with and the brokenness that God wants to heal next. They may also be a part of an unwitting transition team.
It can be an ugly season when unpleasant stuff is revealed, but we don’t need to lose hope. In time the valley will bloom again. Watch for the signs.