When Ice Loses Its Grip on Us
Mar 05, 2017 05:10AM ● Published by Bonnie Lyn Smith
Like so many in the Boston area in recent weeks, my yard has been a combination of ice skating rink (which translates “fall risk”) and glacial melt. Watching 18 inches of snow lose its claim over my backyard is therapeutic, not only because it means the approach of spring, but because watching indiscriminate white space become defined greens and browns again brings clarity into everything around me. Even my dogs have been delighting in the discovery of pachysandra and moss coming out of hiding again. To them, it’s like Christmas, awakening senses long dulled by packed snow.
But it’s more than that, isn’t it? When winter strips back a layer of its blankets to let us see growth once again, we also see more clearly the hold it had on us—and we break free. Like a tiny shoot coming out of a tree or bush before the last frost of the year, the thaw brings us hope, energy, promise. Suddenly, we feel less burdened by the weight of it: the ice and snow bearing down on our vehicles, the heavy jackets, the shiver pulling on a thick sweater, the layers of quilts we crawl under to sleep.
As I walked the dogs outside, I saw my yard waking up, the ice no longer shutting out what was underneath.
I thought about how similar that is to my burdens when I look for God’s truth. Take this passage in Galatians, for example.
Galatians 5:22-23, ESV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
When I seek the Lord for the “fruit of the Spirit,” I have to genuinely turn over each of my weaknesses to Him:
- My lack of love
- My lack of joy
- My lack of peace
- My lack of patience
- My lack of kindness
- My lack of goodness
- My lack of faithfulness
- My lack of gentleness
- My lack of self-control
And when I do, the most amazing thing happens:
My heart thaws!
There is more room for growth. The icy feelings toward myself and others lose their grip on me.
- Love—I find space in my heart for a difficult person.
- Joy—I take pleasure in a task I used to find tedious or lacking purpose.
- Peace—I am able to rest in the truth of Christ in an area or relationship of my life that still lacks resolution.
- Patience—I know I am not a “finished work” of God yet, and He is refining me as well as others, so I can accept that they are “in-process” as well.
- Kindness—I can extend grace when someone acts in an unhealthy manner toward me and offer them the love, joy, peace, and patience on my “fruit tree” so far.
- Goodness—I choose to dwell on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable” (Philippians 4:8) and then act toward others from that place.
- Faithfulness—I seek God’s Kingdom from the place of goodness I dwell on, and I let His voice lead me.
- Gentleness—I know that my Savior is gentle, so I “take my yoke and learn from Him” (Matthew 11:29), and in the same way He offers me His gentleness, I come alongside others.
- Self-control—I can have victory over temptations and my temper because I know God is a just judge, and His Son advocates on my behalf (1 John 2:1).
What I just described is a very healthy tree, which, when well-watered and tended to, is capable of bearing much fruit. Seeking God in each of these areas (through His Holy Word, prayer, and godly counsel) is a great way to keep the personal harvest coming in, to grow in Christ.
But we all get sloppy. We forget to tend to our yard at times. We don’t properly winterize it. We can’t stop the onslaught of winter, but we can prevent its wrath from damaging what we’ve planted.
How does the ice seem to freeze our hearts so quickly, without us seeming to notice? It only takes one storm we’re unprepared for, and soon, we become complacent, the ice spreading across the promising growth, choking spring from it with each gust of cold air and another snowfall.
What are these “storms”?
Immediately before reminding us of the fruit of the Spirit, the Apostle Paul warns us about the desires of the flesh.
They are our winter, Folks. They grab up the green growth of our lives, leaving only moss and rotting leaves.
Galatians 5:16-21, ESV
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God [emphasis mine].
Okay, so maybe sorcery isn’t your “drink at the bar,” so to speak, but what about sensuality?
Are you divisive?
Do you covet what your neighbor has?
Do you get a little too relaxed in public with a few glasses in your hand?
Do fits of anger describe you or anyone you know?
How about rivalries? Do you make everything a contest with everyone else? Are you more concerned with one-upmanship than with the general welfare of the people around you?
Are you addicted to stirring up drama?
As for sorcery, while not many of us are Harry Potters or Merlins, did you know that when/if we consult mediums and tarot cards, and conduct séances, we are entertaining “spirits” that are the opposite of what is holy and of God? When we do that, we are seeking the occult, the demonic. It may seem innocent to us, but evil is what we are letting in.
Like the spikes in temperature that melt what’s left of the slush in our backyards, the Holy Spirit offers Himself to those of us who believe in Christ; He takes us by the hand and leads us. We have the opportunity to “walk by the Spirit.” In the Spirit, it is eternal spring.
Even when those temptations assault us, if we keep our hearts and minds beating in time to the warmth of God, the icy tentacles of sin can no longer get a grasp on our soul.
And when that happens, the white fades out, and God’s purposes for our lives come into sharper focus—
—with the vibrant colors of a fruit-bearing tree that is pregnant with hope and everlasting life.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.