Just about the time I was beginning to think spring might never come, there it was. Millions of the tiniest and palest green buds, unfolding in the trees. Branches are mostly bare still, but if you look closely you’ll find a haze of green as if God airbrushed the color in. Though it’s not much to look at yet, how that faint color lifts my spirits.
Thinking back to when the last leaf may have fallen, I’d guess it was sometime in early November. Which means we’ve had a good 6 months of winter. Six months is a long time to put up with bitter, driving wind, frigid temps and grey skies day after day. Six months! When you wait that long to hear a robin sing outside your bedroom window, or to feel a warm breeze on your face, or to let the kids ride bikes and climb trees, spring becomes something really special.
I doubt spring would be quite so wonderful, though, if I didn’t know the flip side of the coin – that cold and rigorous winter. In fact, I know I took it for granted when we lived in Georgia, where winter is shorter and milder, and spring is never far away. It’s a fundamental truth that we appreciate something more after we have had to go without it.
Today marks the second Sunday after Easter. Holy Week and the gut-wrenching passion of Christ are still fresh in my mind. As I journeyed through Holy Week, I confess I struggled somewhat to fully understand what Jesus’ death on the cross means for me personally. Though I want to fully appreciate it, sometimes I have a hard time doing so because there has not been a day in my life where I’ve had to “go without” it. Like the countless sunny spring days in Georgia, all too often I take Jesus and His great love for me for granted as well.
Lately, I’ve wondered if one of the reasons for this is that my meditation involves a little too much spring and not enough winter. Many churches today struggle to find this balance as well. We love, love, love that all-inclusive Gospel which tells us how much God loves us. But we are not so quick to open our ears to what must come first, and that is God’s Law. The cold, harsh reality of the law is succinctly stated in Romans 3:20, “By the Law is the knowledge of sin.” The law is a wintry gale that batters our souls and pushes at us until we are hunched over in agony and crying for deliverance, until we have no doubt that we are guilty before God, and helpless to change.
Just as winter makes me appreciate spring, so God’s law makes me appreciate the amazing grace found in His gospel to a much greater degree. Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Mark 2:17) His Law shows me just how deathly ill I am, so that when He reassures me with His gospel I am able to better appreciate what that cost was.
This morning, several days after I packed away all our mittens and winter hats, it began to snow. While the kids looked out the window and groaned, I had to smile. God has a special way of making it personal for me. Just as I was blessed during Holy Week and Easter to reacquaint myself with the price Jesus paid to redeem me, so now I am reminded that His grace is what sustains me every single day. Though “there is none righteous” (Romans 3:10), Jesus has given me new life through His work of salvation.
Yes, I’m grateful for the cold winter because it makes the warmth of spring all the more beautiful, and I’m still more thankful for the Law of God because it makes the new life of the Gospel the most beautiful gift of all.