By Jasmine Timm
I often say that my least favorite time to live in Oregon is during the months of January and February. Upon waking each morning, the sun is still sleeping, the rain is pounding, and the air is cold. As I lay in bed trying to summon the motivation to get up, I find myself longing for certain places where the air is warm and crisp and the daylight stretches on for hours.
Many of us hit a slump in the winter months, and this often translates to spiritual apathy, general discouragement, or even depression. The sun rises late and sets early, and we often find ourselves longing for some form of escape, whether it be a vacation, spending more time on our phones, or putting in extra hours at work. What we often miss is a great yet subtle gift, which God offers to us in seasons of darkness — the gift of hopeful longing.
I’ve often thought of this longing as being centered around a desire for Jesus to return, and it certainly is centered in that. What I’ve missed, though, is that this longing includes a longing for place. Jesus’ return cannot be divorced from His physicality. Our King will come back in the flesh, and with His coming will usher in a type of rootedness which we often don’t know we long for. Jesus tells us in John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” This place He prepares isn’t some abstract, floaty place far off in space, but a concrete, tangible place, where our feet will touch the dust. It is a place of physical rootedness, a renewed earth, rooted itself in the presence of King Jesus.
The promises of land for the people of the Old Testament do not end with the ushering in of a New Covenant. It is extended and expanded. God promised land to His Old Testament people, and much of the Old Testament is centered on this longing for physical rootedness — think of the Exodus, the wanderings in the wilderness, the conquering of the Promised Land, the exile, and the return from exile. The Old Testament people are constantly longing for a place of rootedness, where their feet will touch earth, where their God will walk amongst them. Jesus delivers on this promise, and as I write, He is preparing this physical reality for His beloved people.
At the core of our desire to escape present darkness and apathy lies a longing for rootedness. We want to be in a place where sorrow and sighing is no more, where joy abounds and the sun never sets, where hands and feet don’t grow tired, where our minds and hearts don’t feel weighed down. And the good news is that this place is coming. In the midst of winter weariness, we have a strong and steady hope: Jesus is alive, and He will soon permanently establish His physical kingdom, where we will reign with Him. There is a place of permanent rootedness, and it is coming for those who love and obey Jesus the King.
No matter the weightiness of our minds and hearts, our confidence in this coming kingdom gives us hope to endure. Our assurance in the consummated kingdom of God — our anticipated, physical kingdom reality — gives us strength to obey Him now, to be rooted where He has placed us right now, for we know it is not meaningless, nor is it final. Permanence is coming, and in believing this promise, we are given hope.
As darkness lingers, I often find hope in the stories of C.S. Lewis. In the Narnia book The Silver Chair, Aslan — a representation of Christ — gives a young girl named Jill the task of rescuing a prince from the snares of evil. She has an encounter with Aslan that alters her whole being, and then he sends her to Narnia to complete the mission of rescuing the prince, giving her detailed instructions on how she is to go about finding him. Upon departing, Aslan says to her:
“But, first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.”C.S. Lewis
Aslan acknowledges that it will be much harder for Jill to hear Aslan clearly while she is down on the ground completing her mission. The air will cloud and thicken, and she must rely on remembering the instructions of Aslan, meditating on them day and night. So too with us.
The darkness of the winter months clouds our perception of God’s goodness and the weariness of the months cause us to drag our feet, forgetting that God has placed our feet exactly where He intends in order to accomplish something in and through us. He has given us a simple, though often difficult, task — to remember His words. He gives us His words, the Scriptures, to strengthen our knees and steady our stance, and His Spirit provides us with the stamina to endure. And while we root ourselves in the present moment by the power of His Word, we also long for our future rootedness, where fogginess will be no more. The time is short, and His coming is near. We must remember, remember, remember the signs, knowing that Jesus will surely return to dwell with us permanently and physically.
When it seems God has hidden His face, we are provided with an opportunity of hopeful longing. We long for the rootedness of the coming kingdom, where we are separated no more from our Creator, nor fellow creation, where all tears and darkness cease. The time is coming. Remember, remember, remember.
And as you remember, reflect on these verses from Revelation:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”Revelation 21:1-4
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.Revelation 22:1-5