Georgia weather is, above all else, unpredictable. Particularly in the late winter and early spring, the temperature may fluctuate as much as 30 degrees from one day to the next. While this irregularity takes a significant toll on my wardrobe choices, the bigger impact is on my emotional state and well-being. By mid March, I am simply done with cold. The allure of evening fires and hot chocolate has passed and I am enticed instead by the scent of barbeque and swimming pool chlorine. But despite my hoping and wishing, winter maintains its grip as it holds spring defiantly at bay.
A certain plant in my front yard, however, refuses to let winter dictate its progress. Just the other day, I glanced out my window and saw the hibiscus bush outside my kitchen displaying its first scarlet blooms. 38 degrees, damp and windy and yet that brazen plant had the wherewithal to unleash bright crimson flowers that had no business appearing in such weather. Either ignorant or indifferent to the climate, it went right ahead and bloomed in winter.
Can we say the same? Do we bloom in winter? When our surroundings and circumstances are at their worst, do we display our best? Do we disregard the temporary climate of our lives and choose to demonstrate beauty and grace? Or do we instead allow the weather around us to influence and determine our countenance and attitude? Personally, I find that while I want and intend to follow James example and “count it all joy when I meet trials”, I often choose to worry and complain.
The truth is, my winters are so mild. God is so gracious and merciful to me and my trials are so small in the light of His provision. I have been reading the Minor Prophets lately and if anyone had an excuse not to bloom in winter, they would be at the top of the list. Take Habakkuk for example. Habakkuk saw the great sin of his nation Israel and wondered at God’s inaction. When he questioned God about it, the response only brought forth more inquisition and confusion. God informed him that another nation, even more sinful and abhorrent, would be used as the tool to punish Israel. For two chapters, Habakkuk and God converse regarding the impending capture and persecution of Israel. No doubt Habakkuk must have wept and grieved over the conditions his people would be faced to endure. He realized that a relentless, unforgiving, gripping winter was headed right towards him and the nation he loved.
Faced with the reality that was before him, Habakkuk had a choice. Winter was upon him and his response hung in the balance. And he bloomed. He bloomed with life and love indescribable.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.” Hab 3:17-19
In verse 18, the word Habakkuk chooses to use for rejoice is guwl. Hebrew is a very visual language, which for me makes the translation even more powerful. It turns out that guwl means “to spin round (under the influence of any violent emotion such as joy or fear)”. To spin round under the influence of joy. Despite all that Habakkuk was inevitably going to endure, he surveyed his circumstances and chose to “spin round with joy” in the Lord. If that’s not blooming in winter, I don’t know what is. I love to think of Habakkuk (whose name means embrace by the way) on his knees after hearing what the Lord revealed to him. I love to think of him feeling the chill in the air and hearing the roar of the wind as it grew ever nearer. And then, I love to picture him standing up and spinning with joy before his God. Spinning with joy because he knew God would be faithful, because he knew God would be righteous and he couldn’t contain his praise.
I want to be just like Habakkuk and my hibiscus bush. I want to bloom in winter. I want to brace myself for whatever I am enduring and choose to proceed with great beauty and worship. I want to display grace and joy despite the situation. I want those around me to declare that I have no business blooming in such difficult circumstances. But most of all, I want to spin round with joy and proclaim that God is my strength and my salvation at all times and in every season.