In the bleak midwinter, it’s hard to see God at work
by the Rev. Ken Rummer for Presbyterians Today | Special to Presbyterian News Service
Twelve degrees and cloudy-gray, with snow in the forecast. I’m looking out at Christina Rossetti’s “bleak midwinter.”
Across the trail, the builders have a good start on a house for the last open lot in the new subdivision. Several other houses are moving toward completion. Keeping an eye on the progress, I’ve been getting a picture of the step-by-step of home construction.
First comes a hole in the ground and big piles of dirt. Footings and foundations follow. Then framing and sheeting, shingles and house wrap, windows and doors and siding. All these proceed, weather permitting, with surprising speed.
But then days and weeks go by with no noticeable change. From the outside, there’s nothing new to see.
Of course, on the inside important work is being done: running wires, gluing pipes, insulating walls, hooking up the furnace, mudding sheetrock, laying flooring, nailing trim, hanging lights, spraying paint, setting countertops, grouting tile. The list is long, but the progress is hidden.
Fast and easy to see, but then slow and out of sight. I think the spiritual life may be like that.
When I look back over my journey of faith, the headlines stand out: the turning points, the guiding arrows, the prayers answered, the growth spurts. If I were a house under construction, those are the times when the progress of the builders would be easy to track.
I also see times between the big moments when it didn’t seem like anything was happening at all: no feeling of God’s closeness, no whispers of revelation, no measurable growth. If I were a house under construction, those are the times I’d wonder if the builders had been pulled off the job site to work on a different house.
But perhaps that’s just when the construction has moved inside, with only a ladder in a window to hint that important work is still going on.
What might God be doing on the inside?
Wiring our hearts to handle a greater capacity for compassion? Patching the crack made by a slamming door? Cleaning the drink cans out of our duct work to unblock the flow of the Spirit? Installing lighting in all the dark, interior places we fear to enter? Adding faucets from which justice can flow?
The construction in our lives of love and joy and peace, the building of patience, the installation of kindness and generosity and faithfulness, the assembling of gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 NRSV) — these, too, are inside jobs, hidden work.
So, if you are finding yourself, as I find myself, in a bleak, midwinter season, if outside construction is at a standstill and spiritual growth is hard to see, then I invite you to watch for the electrician’s van out front, or a light shining from a window in the darkening late afternoon.
God may be working in less visible ways just now, but God is working still.
The Rev. Ken Rummer, who’s Honorably Retired, writes about life and faith from the middle of Iowa by the High Trestle Trail. To view previous posts, go here.
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