May 3 does seem a bit late for spring to arrive. But we were in upstate New York after a brutal winter. Four days before we were watching snow flurries. A day before Sara and I had taken a walk and commented on the dark, grey trees that lined the horizon. It was May, and there was not even a hint of green among the trees.
The next morning, however, as we drove Sara to the airport to begin her journey home, we were amazed how spring had arrived overnight. All the trees had popped and the, fresh green leaves of new growth shaded the country side in a beautiful shade of spring. The rest of my time there, I got to watch spring wash over a region that had waited way too long for its arrival.
It reminded of an email I’d received a few months ago, of another spring arriving on a desperate soul.
About a year ago, I was struggling with a profound sense of feeling spiritually dead. We were attending a small “Bible believing” church and I was bored with the preaching and even more burned out from “serving.” I figured it was from a prideful heart and not “being in the Word enough” so I began diligently reading the Bible which led to questions, which led to searching and eventually back to Jesus. He guided me toward a number of resources out there, which of course I was told not to trust because these people didn’t have “sound doctrine”. It’s a cliché but the only way I can describe it was escaping the matrix.
My husband and I were in agony about “leaving the church” and our pastor gave us the warning about following sinful desires of our heart, but we bravely and as quietly as we could stopped going. After that I found your ministry and wow! What a joy it was for us! My husband found himself saying, “I actually find myself loving people again.” I feel as if like you, we went through a pharisectomy. We very much miss the friends and community that was the best byproduct of our Sundays, but we are becoming more intentional about loving people in our neighborhood and really loving our children.
I know not all Christians experience the conservative legalism we did and God doesn’t have a prescription for His church. Who knows where the Spirit will lead us, but I’m actually happy again and I used to think being happy meant I was somehow being sinful. When I ponder on God, I no longer feel this terrible conflict or confusion about His character, I only feel His affection and freedom.
What a story! I love to hear when people awaken out of the dreary despair of religious performance. Starting your pharisectomy is a lot like waking up to spring. To hear she’s “finding myself loving people again” and to “actually be happy again,” fills my heart with joy.
Of course we know that spring doesn’t really arrive overnight. Long before those trees burst into color on May 3, the sap was already running to the far corners of each branch and stem. One day, we could finally see it, but the process had been going on for a long time. I love that the Spirit was already drawing her into those realities before she and her husband found their way there and that anything I said had only helped affirm what God had already put in their hearts.
So if you find yourself today stuck in your own winter of your own spiritual discontent, don’t give up hope. The hunger Father has placed in you is doing its work. Just because you can’t see it yet, doesn’t mean he isn’t stirring things deep within your soul. One day it will pop out and your pursuit and patience will all be worth it. This is in his hands more than yours. Ask him to help you relax in the moment as your own spring approaches. (If you want more detail about this process, it is the theme of my book about the vineyard: In Season:).
It’s never easy to push away from religious performance, especially when others warn us not to and our friends no longer trust us. But it’s the road worth taking and you’ll never regret finding love and joy again. If we could only learn to lean out of those things that make us restless, exhausted, anxious, or obligated to someone else’s expectations, and lean into those things that express love, hope, rest, and joy, we would find the journey far more engaging.
The sudden burst of spring, took my breath away. Hearing stories like this lady’s does, too. Can you imagine what it will be like when we awaken from this corrupt age into the full glory of what it means to be God’s children in a new heaven and a new earth?