Monday, January 19, 2009

Sap

Today I wrote in the last two pages of my 2008 journal. I meant to finish it before the new year began, but I kept getting side-tracked. Or rather my writing found voice in other venues: blogs, emails, cards, and notes.

When I pulled this journal out this morning I realized several pages have been torn out—simply because this journal was handy and someone needed a piece of paper. This bothered me. I wondered what would have been written on those pages had they remained. I stopped wondering and simply wrote on the pages that remained.


Winter is here. We are in its clutch. The temperatures have dropped to single digits. There is a light crust of powdery snow skiffed on our sidewalk. The house is dry. The furnace grumbles and heaves as it attempts to keep out the cold. The dogs don’t want to stay outside very long. Zoe-girl comes to the back door barking insistently to come back in the house. Coats, hats, scarves, gloves and boots litter the house. Dark circles of moisture puddle at the front door.

Recently my daughter posted her own thoughts about winter. We both struggle.

We are in winter. Light is low; the brilliance is dimmed and shrouded. And it is only mid-January.

January and February are hard months for me. The holidays are over and the bitterness of winter has settled down among us. I find it is very hard to keep the creeping shadows at bay.

C.S. Lewis was a brilliant man. The connections and insights and wisdom in his writing were extraordinary—birthed from a mind leaning in toward the things of God. I often think about Narnia: forever winter, but never Christmas. This is a stark portrayal of the absence of hope.

Lewis recognized what happens to us when our hope has been reduced or depleted.

We cannot live long or well without hope. We are too frail. Too fragile. Too brittle.

Many equate hope with a wistful dream. Misty and ethereal. Vaporous. This kind of hope is like a fog that dissipates when the sun rises; or like a child’s soap bubble that bursts with the slightest touch. We speak of this hope as if it is an entity which will easily vanish and melt away if we are not careful.

But real hope, the hope Job, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Paul and John talk about has a different substance. They are not talking of pensive longing. Their hope was not a flimsy thing. Their hope had its foundation firmly knotted in the character and promises of God. It was not a thread, but a rope tied to the waist of God.

There is an assurance in their hope—not just a hopeful longing—but a reality that is just not visible yet. Their ropes had been tested. They knew that if their rope did break then the arm of God would reach down for them. And his arm is never too short.

This winter is a little different for me. I still feel the shroud of its dark shadows. I still struggle with the lack of brilliant light. And the gray still bothers me, but this year there is a new hope.

I can feel this ancient hope—like a sugar maple must feel the sap as it begins to rise through its trunks and branches.

I feel the sap being held in reserve at the core of me.

And when the right temperatures come, when we get a short reprieve from the relentless cold—a glimpse of spring—and then it turns cold again, this is when the sap will run.

We don’t see this sap unless we tap into the tree. Unless we bore a hole into the bark, it is invisible to us.

I know it will not be forever winter.

I have tied my hope to the waist of God.

I feel the sap.

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