A friend of mine has spent her entire life in Florida, except when we were in school together in Chicago. Her first winter, as the weeks of frigid weather turned into months, she would always ask us Midwesterners, “Will the cold ever end?” We would assure her that seasons change, that it was a question of the earth’s rotation and happened on a predictable schedule. “It feels like it’ll never get here,” she would say.
For those of us who have had that same thought, it has finally happened. The sun has returned and brought back the warmth we have all eagerly awaited. As temperatures climbed into the 60s, we took the opportunity to luxuriate on decks, to take walks on the riverfront, to stroll through the woods. Around town, people were out and about who were simply smiling in gratitude. The last few holdouts of ice and snow are clinging to the sides of hills and bluffs, but we know their days are numbered. Even if there are some flurries in our future, spring is on its way. There is nothing quite like that feeling of the sun upon your skin. No matter how many springs I see, that first fresh feeling of warmth on my brow never gets old after a long winter.
No matter how difficult life gets, I try to remember that there are cycles to the human experience. Our current experience doesn’t get to define us forever. What feels like a frosty abyss today could well give way to the warm embrace of tomorrow. Psychologists who study joy have also come up with a counterintuitive insight: in order to have joy, we also must experience some measure of deprivation. (If this seems strange, have you ever been around anybody spoiled enough they always got exactly what they wanted whenever they wanted it?) That’s a fancy way of saying that why we enjoy spring so much is that we’ve spent so long waiting for it that when it finally arrives we can appreciate it all the more.
This time of year in the church is called Lent. Traditionally there is talk of fasting and “giving up” things as we journey toward the holiest of times in the Christian faith at Easter. But, I wonder if in some ways the pandemic and our harsh Iowa winter hasn’t already caused us to give up so many things that we would normally take for granted. If you are ready to find the new normal on the other side of COVID, if you are ready for the sun to bring back all the comforting routines that we had before, then you are in good company. I yearn for that just like I have yearned for spring’s warmth. And I’ll tell you exactly what I keep telling myself: life is full of seasons. After a season of deprivation and metaphorical ice, I believe that better times are well on their way to shine upon us.