I recently moved to Minnesota from the state with the fourth cloudiest winters. In the months of December, January, and February, Michigan averages 10 days where the sunshine reaches the ground for at least 30% of the day. I’m convinced the prolonged, lack of sunlight impacts more than a few houseplant enthusiasts, among whom I consider myself. Every fall we chant our prayers that by divine grace our plants will survive the coming months. We humidify more, water less, and prune with love.
The beginning of the darkest days of the year marks the Great Annual Scooching of the Plants when I drag all my pots and plant tables closer to the windows. As the darkness begins to consume more and more daylight, my aesthetically crafted plant arrangements transform into awkward green clusters crowding the windows, desperately trying to absorb the few hours of sun that make it through. Months later, they return to their former, much more beautiful setup.
Upsettingly gray winters affect people, too. A part of me dreads these months where I inevitably have less energy, more anxiety, and the overwhelming urge to stay nestled in bed. Daily rhythms can become less intentional and more a happenstance. For some, the holidays bring a mix of joy and gloom. Putting on gym clothes can require as much effort as it takes to exercise. Life gets harder in winter. Life is harder when you’re further from the light.
On the grayest days when I feel the most melancholy, I remind myself I have more power than I realize. That power can be something as simple as scooching closer to the sunlight. From there, I don’t need to do anything except receive what the light offers. I wonder if the spiritual life is similar: positioning ourselves to receive the sunlight of God’s grace, trusting that we are God’s beloved and therefore will be taken care of. Some days are brighter than others. Some seasons are grayer than others. And yet we sit, we wait, and we hope.
In my own sitting and reflecting, I recall an early 2000s Switchfoot song where Jon Foreman sings:
Sunshine won’t she be my mother
Sunshine come and help me sing
My heart is darker than these oceans
My heart is frozen underneath
We are crooked souls trying to stay up straight
Dry eyes in the pouring rain where
The shadow proves the sunshine
The shadow proves the sunshine
In whatever state you find yourself for the rest of these winter days, may your eyes and heart be opened wide enough to see beyond the shadows; may you find strength enough to move yourself gradually into the sunlight; and may you rest in God’s love which is enough.
Jeremy Bork is the Director of Programming and Communications at Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center and an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America.
Well said! Growing up in the overcast skies of Ohio when the sun came out it was an invitation to put everything else on hold and go outside to play! So go play in the light whenever you are lucky enough to have it.
Thankyou for your timely words and thoughts of self expression manifested in real time and place for all to absorb, enjoy, share with others in one’s own comfort level with God’s presence. A blessed, healthy Christmas for you and family!
You are going to love the MN winter sun! It’s sunny many days. I totally miss the freezing cold, but bright sun days. PS. Miss you so and love you and Ian even more.