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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )


The air is crisp, the nights have cooled, and the fields and forest are aflame. We drove north on Canadian Thanksgiving, a last minute plan, and with the help of an iPhone and google maps, found our way to a quaint little island reachable only by ferry. And of course any outing is spectacular to a kid when it involves a ferry ride. In the car, I was reading from Adele Ahlberg Calhoun's book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, and found my way to an appendix at the back of the book entitled, "Seasons, Stages and Ages of Transformation." Here, I found some answers to questions I've been asking the last many months.

Months of spiritual barrenness. Months of mechanical spiritual disciplines. Months of questions like, "Why do I feel so exhausted?" "Why do my capacities feel so limited?" "Why isn't it that I don't want to do more for God?"

As I'm inclined to do, I looked to lay blame. I dumped a muddy load at Ryan's feet. If he were only more helpful, more romantic, more attuned to my needs, that I wouldn't feel so dead inside.

And I tossed myself a few savoury blame bones. If only I weren't more disciplined, less materialistic, cared less about what people thought of me, were just simply more committed to Christ, then I wouldn't find myself in this desert.

And then, epiphany.

Winter. My soul was wintering.

Adele describes this spiritual season as a time, "when the well runs dry and we feel we are running on empty."

She lists specific signs of the season:

  • Feel stuck, angry or distant from God
  • Doubts and crises of faith
  • Longing for new directions, and encounter with God
  • Face personal limits and identify inner brokenness
  • Find God in my weakness
  • Begin to realize the link between weakness and fruitfulness, between being and doing
She names the temptations of the season:
  • Depression, fear of being found out, naval gazing
  • Rationalization, denial, blame
  • Pretense
  • Bitterness, isolation
And she commends the disciplines of the season:
  • Journaling
  • Devotional Reading
  • Detachment
  • Solitude
  • Labyrinth
  • Fixed-Hour Prayer
  • Spiritual Direction
  • Healing Prayer
  • Unplugging
  • Discernment

Hope in winter snows? Yes. I suddenly realized that my spiritual listlessness, my "deadness" was not the final word. Spring is coming. And spring is the promise of something new and beautiful growing. I was His, and His plans were good, and there was more to come. More intimacy with Him. More passion for His purposes. More joy. More patience. A pulse for the dead, a blossom for the barren.

What to do when your soul is wintering? Pay attention. God is growing something. He's at work, but in winter, that growth is imperceptible. Hang on.

I've decided hope might be one of the fiercest of the virtues.

So I'll stay fiercely hopeful this winter, watchful for Him.

I'm finding my pulse.