Spring is a season for battle.
But when I look out at the verdant lawn, soft as velvet, plush as a shag rug, it’s hard to believe it. When the weather softens and the butter melts in the sun and I can go outside in a T-shirt, it’s difficult to think about warfare. When the little birds sing in the trees and the magnolia wears perfume and the taste of summer peaches is promised on the trees, struggle seems far away, irrelevant to the rejoicing bounty of new life.
Winter is the time for battle, I’d assert.
And winter is a battle. Seems like we’re always stoking the fire to keep the chill at bay, and even with a bright blaze in the wood stove, wily cold sneaks in at every crack, making seventy degrees feel like sixty. I’m forever trying to get warm.
Spring brings a measure of relaxation. I’m not quite ready to break out the sunglasses and sunscreen (still too wet and cool for that), but there’s less fight in the air, less combat in preserving little comforts like warm feet.
But the warmer air only signals a subtle change in the strategy of the elements.
When I see the world freshening with green shoots and tender grasses, I see a million-man army marching on my flower beds. Quietly, the soft grasses and weeds advance, rank on rank, toward their borders. Beneath their camouflage, they’re battle-hardened soldiers preparing to blitzkrieg peaceful neighbors. They’re armed to the teeth, seeds ready to fire into fertile soil, runners tunneling under borders to come up inside the city walls.
Every time I look their way, they smile and nod in the breeze, and act like peace-loving friends. But it’s all a put-on.
That’s the trouble with Spring. It’s deceptive. I’d like to let down my guard, take a break, and expose sun-starved skin to the occasional rays. I’d like to enjoy the riot of color just awakened from winter hibernation, to sip a hot coffee and anticipate summertime.
But there’s something to be said for the sunshine patriot.
I know what Thomas Paine meant in decrying the summer soldier, that person whose loyalty is as fickle as the weather. There’s a great need for a person who endures winter’s cruel blast without wavering, whose tenacity in the storm rivals a barnacle on the rock. There’s a need for a person who rides the crisis like a knight on a charger, whose blood runs hottest in the thickest conflict. There’s a need for a person who faces the foe without flinching, who thrills to danger, whose valor rises with the occasion.
But when that person is removed from the firing line, when the sound of the cannonade is distant, does he falter—does he melt beneath the softening influence of the sun?
God is looking for winter soldiers and sunshine patriots, those who will shake off the deadening influence of normal things to engage the enemy in sunshine or rain. There’s never a time in the kingdom of God when we can let ‘er ride, when we can follow the stream of our own thinking without concern for God’s.
Evil never takes a holiday. It never declares a truce. We don’t have to seek evil to find it. Evil seeks us. All we have to do is to let down our guard—to relax our vigilance—and evil will find its mark.
2 Chronicles 12 makes this startling commentary on King Rehoboam, Solomon’s son: “. . . he did evil, for He did not set his heart to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:14).
It wasn’t that Rehoboam set out to invent new ways to sin or sat in his bedroom devising wicked plans in the darkness. It wasn’t what he did that was at the root of his problem. It was what he did not do.
He didn’t set his heart to seek the Lord.
There is tremendous power in visible things to distract us from invisible realities. When the sun shines, it’s hard to believe that our old enemies are just as present as in winter’s fiercest gales. But it’s true.
Paul instructs: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).
When our affections are centered on God, when He is the Object of every search and the End of every dream, then we can see past the pleasantries of life to its realities. Then we can sail past the sirens’ empty promises without being deluded. Then we’re equipped to press forward though the winds of crisis abate and gentle zephyrs assure calm passage.
It is always the season to seek the Lord.
Let me put it in personal terms. This has been a fine week; no catastrophes and no jackpots—nothing earth-shattering. Like most weeks, it’s been busy with a dozen little details that all need to be dealt with. I’m amazed at how much time I dedicate to just “doing life.” After adding in time for meals and rest, there isn’t a whole lot of each day left. It’s astounding that anything of import gets done at all.
And in the middle of attending to details, I find that it’s easy to lose focus and run headlong from one thing to the next. In crisis, I center on God because the problem is overwhelming to anyone but Him. In normal things, I don’t shun the Lord. I just don’t seek Him—I don’t concentrate all my energies on finding Him. My mind is filled with a little of this and a little of that and nothing much at all.
And my enemies, disguised as good things, press their advantage and advance.
If we can’t do business with our concentration on the Lord, then we’re doing the wrong thing. If we can’t shop for groceries or settle sibling squabbles or surf the internet or talk to friends with the Lord as our ultimate view, then we’ve missed the point. If we can’t eat our meals with Jesus before us, then we’d be better off to fast.
I know the problem of not being able to stop. I understand that we can’t just quit living, hike to a monastic abode, and contemplate. And that’s not the focus of what Paul says in Colossians 3:2. He doesn’t advocate removing ourselves from life—but living in this world with affections set on the world to come.
Sometimes, even in the midst of a rush job or in the middle of making dinner, it’s better to pause for a moment, get our bearings, and then go back to work with our eyes on the Lord.
Everything in us cries out against stopping. “We’ll never get anything done! Surely it’s better to do something--anything—than to do nothing at all.”
Don’t believe everything you think.
What are we getting done, anyway?” Too much of our activity is like mad swinging at a piñata, blindfolds of good intentions and incessant effort keeping us in the dark. In the middle of everything, it seems more productive to keep flailing away—we might hit our target with the next chop. “Come see my zeal for the Lord!” But such “zeal without knowledge” is the very thing that crucified Christ. It was that kind of burning enthusiasm that Saul experienced as he ravaged “. . . the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (Acts 8:13).
Seeking the Lord does demand time and energy. Actually, it demands everything we are and have. And it will limit what we get done, but the things eliminated were not ours to do anyway. Our wild flailing and purposeless running will cease. In their place will come centered peace and deliberate action for the kingdom.
When seeking the Lord is our highest priority, we’re equipped to be winter soldiers and sunshine patriots, to stay true in storm or calm. And, what’s more—He’s promised we’ll find Him.
© 2011 by Robert G. Robbins