April 8, 2009

Are You Ready?

Unlike some, I don’t entirely dislike the winter season. The bracing air, the beauty of freshly fallen snow and ice storm-slipped branches; there is a cold blue beauty. And this particular winter where I live wasn’t as severe as some I’ve known. Still, months of shoveling, chipping, slushing, and layering have taken their inevitable toll.
I’ve had it. It’s time for spring!
And I’m not alone. You can sense the communal whoosh of expectation. Not because of any number on the calendar. And not even, strictly speaking, because of the number on the thermometer. In fact, as I write this here in southwest Michigan, it’s all of 39 degrees (F). And overcast.
But you can’t fool us. We know spring is coming!
2009 1510 page23Thunderstorms over the weekend swept away all but the most crusted vestiges of snow. And we enjoyed a few intermittent days of bright blue sky, where we could actually see the sun, as opposed to most of the winter when we accept, by faith, that it must still be there.
The air, only just occasionally, has had a different quality to it. But it’s the air of hope, and it’s enough. It’s coming! Arrows of geese honk their return from distant climes.
Spring garden departments at Wal-Marts and Lowes do a brisk business as gardeners carefully and dreamily plan their new ground-quilted masterpieces. Even those who never garden finger spring bulbs and smile. And spring bulbs themselves are definitely emerging from the muddy earth, though we all know that many will end flash-frozen and dead. Still, it’s coming!
People are refusing to wear winter coats, even though they just escaped several strains of the flu and will likely sport new colds by this weekend. But it’s worth it, and it’s coming! And, perhaps the greatest sign of all, we’re headed into . . . spring break. Can spring, then, be far behind?
We call out to each other as we pass, in parking lots, grocery stores, and Sabbath school—“It’s almost spring!” We repeat it like a mantra; we repeat it to remind ourselves of its truth; we repeat it to encourage each other as we fight our way through strong winds and darkling skies. It’s coming!
Could this be the year that spring won’t come? Unthinkable. As surely as morning follows the night, spring will follow the winter.
All of which makes me think of another coming—a far grander, far more welcome coming. A coming that promises light to a cold world grown too accustomed to the dark. A world whose eyes hunger for color and beauty. A world whose collective heart beats for a word of hope, a new beginning, a promise kept. All through our winter we’ve been given enough warmth and comfort to survive, but we were made for more—and it’s coming!
To the person on the street there’s little that proves this coming is near. But to those of us who believe the signs are everywhere, we breathe them to each other in anticipation. We whisper them at hospital bedsides. We sing them boldly in showers, springtime and otherwise. We remember the promises and watch for the signs. And we know it’s coming!
Nothing can make me think otherwise. Nobody can discourage me. You cannot turn my foot back; you cannot keep my eyes from straining forward. It is at the door. I know it in my heart. It’s coming!
And we must keep sharing it wherever we go. Wherever people look beaten down, joy-drained, discouraged, weary of the waiting, we must tell them. It’s worth it; it won’t be long; it’s coming!
Faith will become sight. In a moment! In a twinkling of an eye! At the last trump! He who will come shall come! He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.  
VALERIE N. PHILLIPS is associate director of the women’s residence hall at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, where she has ministered to collegiate and graduate women for more than 25 years.