Ah, spring! Spring in Atlanta is captivating. Nothing compares to the smell of blooming gardenias, the vibrant colors of azalea flowers and the freshness of the white blooms on dogwoods. I could spend my days breathing in the beauty (you know, as long as I take my Zyrtec).
Honestly, fall is my favorite time of year but fall in the south is a slow process of moving from hot, less hot to a little chilly with some leaves changing to freezing winter. Spring in the south involves instantaneous change. One morning the trees are bare and the next morning there are buds. I lived in the northeast for a few years and my experience with the seasons was the opposite in Boston. Fall was a very sudden change. The warm summer days quickly changed to chilly mornings and changed leaves. I think spring moves slowly in the north because of melting snow and the slow waking of plants after such a long, harsh winter. In the south, plants never endure harsh winters so they never truly go dormant.
As spring is beginning here in the south, I can’t help but compare the rebirth of spring to spiritual rebirth. While the changing from winter to spring seems instantaneous to the eye, anyone who knows anything about horticulture knows that plants and animals spend their entire winter preparing for the rebirth of spring. Birds build nests in preparation for their offsprings’ arrival. Trees and plants slough off the dead to make way for the fresh blooms and green leaves of spring.
My spiritual transformation process is no different. When I became a Christian at 18 years old, to the onlooker I looked to have changed instantly. But, God had spent my entire life preparing my heart to receive the light of His word through Jesus Christ. I had heard the Gospel story probably 20 plus times growing up in the Bible belt, but God had to work through circumstances and events in my life so that my heart would be plowed up to the point that when I heard the story my senior year in high school; I finally understood the call.
The years 2012-2016 were very difficult years in the life of my family. My husband and I experienced the death of both his father and my stepfather. I stepped down from a ministry position that I dearly loved. And, our second child was born with a birth defect that required a very invasive surgery and long recovery process. The suffering and grief and hard work we experienced in those few years stretched me in ways I never thought I could be stretched. It wasn’t all good stretching either. There was a lot of depression, questioning, anger and bitterness involved in that process. But, what wasn’t obvious was that God was preparing me for a rebirth in my walk with Him.
In the past year, I have experienced an awakening in my life that to the outsider might seem instantaneous like the blooming of the trees in Atlanta in spring. But, I know that God has spent the last few years sloughing off the dead things in my heart in order to produce something beautiful that only He can produce. The dogwood doesn’t just decide one day it’s going to bloom. The pruning and blooming is a process set in motion by the Creator each winter and spring. It’s the same with my life. I don’t just wake up one day and say, “I want to be different. I want revival.” I wish it was like that, but I know by experience that the process of spiritual rebirth only takes place when God initiates the pruning and the blooming. My prayer is that I would allow the pruning during the “winters” of my life so that I can experience the beauty of the “spring” fruit.
“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:2 (ESV)