Spring comes slowly: grieving, healing and growing new dreams
Dead blooms of last year
The dead blooms of last year clung right beside the new buds which brimmed with possibility for the spring ahead. I did not see the roses in full bloom I had been hoping to see, but the Holy Spirit directed my gaze to what was there. Death and life coinciding; an end and the promise of a new beginning, side by side. “Lord,” I said, as I caught my breath, “this is my life!” For within my heart, I held the pain of the death of a long-held dream, while simultaneously begging God to reveal a glimmer of new life, a hint of new hopes for my future.
Maybe you’re in such a place right now. For many readers here, your “dead blooms of last year” may look like the dream of a biological or adopted child who has never come to be. Years of effort and tears that have only yielded empty arms. For others, maybe it’s a relationship that’s come to an end, or a career that ended abruptly or is no longer the right fit. Maybe you’ve had to move to a new town, leaving all you’ve ever known behind. Maybe a parent, a spouse or a child has died, or you’ve received a devastating health diagnosis and now nothing in your future looks the same. Maybe you’ve graduated, lost your job or retired and there’s a whole new future opened up in front of you and you’re not quite sure what to do with it. And with all of that death, grief and uncertainty welling up in your heart, you are longing for roses, begging God for life, for beauty, for direction, for clarity, for a new dream.
When seasons change
When seasons of life change and our long-cherished hopes don’t come to fruition, the Lord often doesn’t give us roses in full bloom right away. Sometimes, for a while, there appears to be nothing. Only loss, grief and confusion. A spiritual winter. But we must remember that God’s plans for the roses when winter comes is not death, but rest. Winter is only a season, and no matter the depth of winter’s cold, those buds do eventually form. They always break open. They always bloom. But remember, spring comes slowly. Remember that hope takes work, and moving into a new season takes time. Late April where I live looks nothing like mid-July. Urgently wishing for the lush gardens of June and July does not make them arrive any faster. And others chiding us for the slow growth of our gardens doesn’t make them grow any faster either. Only allowing winter to run its course, and then going about the careful process of digging, planting, fertilizing, watering, pruning, and a good deal of waiting, of getting our hands dirty, brings about the summer garden.
A lesson from the garden
So let us take a lesson from the garden. If you are experiencing a loss or a transition, don’t be afraid to give “winter” its due before gradually entering into the slow coming of spring. Take time to soak in your present reality. If there’s grieving to do based on what you’ve had to leave behind or what you’re facing ahead, do that work of grieving. That’s important. Just because we will eventually have to accept the reality of our new season doesn’t mean it will be easy or that acceptance will, or should, happen right away. Just because we need to move on with a new direction or way of life doesn’t mean we can or should decide on that new path right away. You have to trust that your time of rest, of healing and restoration is exactly the fertile ground your soul needs for beginning to dream again. Once it does, you’ll begin to notice that flicker in your heart, the prompting of the Holy Spirit beckoning you to explore or pursue an interest, an idea, or a new path and encouraging you to take the next step. Those flickers of insight and clarity come after the rest, not before. Notice them when they appear, and take heart. Gather your strength. Embrace the process. Begin to dream again.
Follow the prompt
If you don’t have the exact answers yet as to the new destination God is leading you towards (the new job, the new relationship, the new path for growing your family or living out your vocation), that’s ok. Simply stay in prayer, ask for God’s guidance and follow those promptings, those “flickers” of inspiration to see where they lead you. That volunteer stint may lead you directly to your new calling or it may wind up being an opportunity to network with others in a field you’d like to explore for a future career. That adoption training course may give you the confirmation you need to start becoming prospective adoptive parents or it may give you pause and help you realize this isn’t the path you and your spouse want to take. Taking that much-needed vacation with your spouse after a taxing surgery or grueling round of fertility medications, bloodwork and appointments may lead you feeling restored enough to start again or it may give you the clarity you needed to realize it’s time to close this chapter. A photography course at the local community center won’t bring back your departed loved one and it might not help you decide what to do after a failed surgery or treatment cycle, but it may significantly boost your spirit during a time of loss and transition and encourage you to keep waking up every morning to continue to seek and follow God’s calling. Either way, following the prompting to volunteer at the place, take that course, go on that vacation or pursue that new hobby could end up guiding you in one way or another down the path that God is calling you to take.
Regardless of its specific outcome, each step you take helps you in the process of dreaming and of moving forward. These are the tiny buds of early spring. They may not yet be fully grown, but given time and nurturing, they become that summer garden in full bloom. Given time and nurturing, you too will become all that the Lord is calling you to be. Let the Lord begin His healing work in you and allow Him to slowly help you to begin again.
Verses and questions for reflection and journaling “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3) “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) “You who seek God, let your hearts revive.” (Psalm 69:32)
Where in life do you need healing from a broken heart? Where are you experiencing loss and the need for new life?
How does it make you feel knowing that Jesus knows the depths of your sorrow and seeks to bring you healing? What would it look like for Jesus to “revive your heart”?
Reflect on some things in life that take time to come together. How is the end product helped by taking the time to go through the entire process (ie: growing plants, learning a new skill, baking, event organizing, etc)?
Reflect on a transition you are facing right now. Is anyone in your life (or even you yourself) putting pressure on you to grieve or transition more quickly than you feel ready to? What are the benefits of not rushing this process?
Where in the continuum of “spiritual seasons” do you find yourself? What do you see this season involving for you in order for it to be a healthy one? Where do you feel God is calling you for your next step?