By Matthew Paul Turner
Without the darkness of winter, how could we fully know the brilliance of spring?
On an April flight to Washington, D.C., I was seated next to a woman wearing a blue suit and a personal I.D. tag with the word Pentagon written on it. I sat up straighter just in case her security clearance permitted her to have people “put down.“
As the flight attendants began preparing the cabin for arrival, Ms. Pentagon glanced out the window. “Look at all of the cherry blossoms,” she said. “They have really started to bloom in the past few days. Would you like to look?”
“Sure,” I said, feeling less uncomfortable than before. Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting much when I leaned toward the window; but a magnificent view greeted me. Doused over the landscape of our nation’s capital were brilliant pockets of white and pink blooms.
“I don’t believe I would have even noticed the blossoms if I hadn’t experienced the winter season.”
“Isn’t that a hopeful sight?” she asked. “I love springtime in this city. I like to imagine those cherry blossoms as one of the many voices of God — His way of reminding us that eventually He always makes things new and full of life again.” The woman sighed, “Because that’s difficult to believe sometimes.”
Though I knew nothing about my seatmate or her life, I completely understood her sentiment. Sometimes the whole “God making all things new” business is difficult for me to believe too. I’ve certainly seen it happen a time or two; even the most cynical among us has witnessed something of a “clean slate” for a friend or stranger. But in my own story, it seems as though honest-to-God fresh starts are like fictional tales, realistic only in movies or TV shows. I want to believe those stories, but visualizing God at work in my own life still seems far-fetched half the time.
“You know,” the woman said, “the last couple of years have been hard for my family and me.” I listened as she told me about a season in her life that started with a miscarriage. Shortly thereafter her husband was diagnosed with cancer and then her father with Parkinson’s.
She turned her face toward the window. “Last spring I was out walking our dog downtown like I always do. Everywhere I looked, I saw cherry blossoms beginning to bloom. In one day, the street where we live had been ignited with color. And then it occurred to me — I don’t believe I would have even noticed the blossoms if I hadn’t experienced the winter season, if I hadn’t seen with my own eyes those same trees appear dead. I wouldn’t have noticed the life that God brings into a situation.”
The realization she shared resonated with me. While I don’t believe that one needs to walk through a painful experience in order to see God making things new, I do believe the winter seasons of our lives often give us an opportunity to see rebirth more clearly. Since that conversation, I engage springtime with anticipation of what God will do. And I now realize that each season — in nature and in life — plays an integral role in God’s promise to refashion His creations into the beauty for which we were created.
I took one more glimpse out the window at the cherry trees, wishing I could experience God’s springtime close-up. That was when I noticed the smile on the woman’s face as she took in the view, and then I realized, perhaps I already had.
Matthew Paul Turner is the author of Churched: One Kid’s Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess. He enjoys springtime in Nashville, Tenn., with his wife, Jessica, and their son, Elias. To learn more, visit MatthewPaul Turner.com.
This article originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Christian Single.