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Preparing for "Soul Winter"
It is November and as far as I could tell the farming season was over and done with. The harvest is in. I thought it's holiday time for the farmers.
Obviously I'm not a farmer.
Last week, for no apparent reason, there were suddenly tractors and farm equipment in the fields and travelling from farm to farm taking up space on the road and making me late for every place I was trying to go.
I thought the season was done and suddenly there was a flurry of activity going on. As I drove down the road, I would continually glance into the fields to find out what was going on. I saw a lot of plowing. The soil was being turned and tucked under. The fields would look black and tidy; all straightened up for winter.
My nose informed me of the other major bit of activity. They were fertilizing. I think they saved the really good stuff for the last fertilzing before the snow flies. I tell you, there were fields I drove by that smelled so strong it left me gasping for air and I had to put my foot on the gas pedal to try to out drive the stench before I passed out.
Now, I've already admitted that I am not a farmer. I don't really know exactly what they were all doing in their fields. However, there did seem to be an urgency to get this done before things freeze up. To get done before winter.
It got me wondering if there are things I should be doing to prepare my heart for times of 'soul winter'. Have you ever experienced 'soul winter'? Some sort of stormy trial blows and blusters its way into your heart and things just freeze up. Your prayers feel like heavy, frozen icicles clinging to the ceiling. The Word of God lands on the frozen ground of your heart and cannot penetrate and take root. Words of encouragement, Bible study, discussions and sermons all meet the same fate. They all fall hard onto the frozen mud and make no impression at all.
'Soul winter' isn't a very nice season, but it does tend to come around every now and then. As I watched the farmers preparing their fields for the winter, I realized that they know that by doing the work now, their fields will be ready for the thaw and will be prepared for spring. For a more productive spring, there needs to be preparation done before it freezes.
I began thinking that it would be wise to prepare my soul before the times of winter. What can I do in preparation?
Bring in the harvest.
When I have learned things and grown in my walk in the Lord, I need to reap it and feed on it. What does that look like? As I read the Word the God and as I find verses that specifically apply to me and stare up at me off the printed page, shining and sparkling and being so precious to me in that exact moment and circumstance, I like to write them out. Sometimes I carry them around in my pocket and look at them during the day. Sometimes I memorize them. I write about them in my journal and relate them to my day. I think about them in the days and weeks ahead. I talk them out with my husband, my children, my friends. I pray them and meditate on them. I've harvested the Word of God. This is an ongoing activity during the seasons of growth. Keep bringing in the harvest so that in the frozen times your harvest will remind you of the warmer days, the days when roots were seeking out moisture and plants were pushing tall. There will be words that will come to mind, journal entries to remind you why the Word of God was precious. Those you encouraged before, will now speak your harvest back to you. All these things will begin to blow a bit of spring breeze into your 'soul winter'.
Tidy up the fields. Make way for new growth.
The farmers were plowing and turning the leftover corn stalks into the soil. Maybe next year it won't be a corn field, maybe next year they will plant something different. The ground needs to be free of all the debris and the leftover crop (the bottom part -- the roots), turned under, will decompose and add richness to the soil to help the next harvest. So too, I want to take the root of my spiritual growth and tuck it into the soil of my heart where it will add richness and prepare me for the new crop, for the next harvest.
I really don't want to compare the Word of God to fertilizer -- not the stuff I've been smelling anyway. The Bible speaks of "the pleasing aroma of Christ" 2 Cor. 2:15. So when I talk about fertilizing our souls in preparation for 'soul winter', the comparison is not the fertilizing agent; rather it is the comparison of the effects of the fertilizer.
Fertilizer is put on the fields to nourish the soil and promote growth. This non-farmer girl didn't really see the point of putting on fertilizer when the days of snow and ice are just around the corner. Apparently, however, the farmers have a different idea. I guess that fertilizer is a good and useful thing even though the soil will soon be harder than rock. When the spring thaw comes, the fertilizer will already be there ready to feed and nourish the new crop.
So the application I see is simply to keep feeding my soul. Whatever nourishes growth, spread it on. Meaningful music, good books, good friends, thoughtful conversations, good teaching etc. Layer on the growing agents. Even if you are headed into a winter in your soul, these growth promoters will be beneficial, they will be the vitamins for your next crop.
Wait for the spring.
Pretty soon the fields around my home really will be dormant. The farmers will not be out there anymore. They will keep their eyes on the calendar and wait for spring. Their fields are ready and when spring comes again they will be turning soil and fertilizing again and planting new crops.
When you experience a 'soul winter', remember that spring will come again. Wait and pray for the thaw. May the previous harvests and the soul preparations speed the winter along and may your soul be eager for the spring and ready to receive a new crop to provide you with a new harvest.