Growing up on a farm I remember the seasons of spring, summer and fall as seasons of work – planting, nurturing and harvesting. Ours was a family affair as we all pitched in but my father bore the larger burden of long hours, many spent in the hot sun. He never came in for the evening meal until it was almost dark, and then he was carrying a bucket of fresh milk, having relieved the cows of their days’ work. By the end of the harvest, my father was in need of a time of rest and renewal. Winter became Dad’s season of recovery – a time to slow down, repair farm equipment and gather on Saturday nights with the neighbors. I think it snowed more when I was a child, and one winter, I recall my father making a homemade sled big enough for at least three people. Dad, my brother and I would slide down the snowy hills of the cow pasture enjoying the fruits of a winter wonderland. It was fun watching my father let go of the worries of supporting a family and become a kid again as he played with us in the snow.
Similarly, winter has now become my season of recovery. After two surgeries followed by seven months of chemotherapy and radiation by body was depleted. By Thanksgiving I was ready for a time of rest and renewal – a time to heal from the weight of cancer treatments. As the days grew shorter, my body began to exhale the stress and inhale the serenity of longer nights and times of rest. A day of snow in early December provided a much needed break as I rested in the memories of days gone by – winter days spent playing a game of carom and eating snow cream with my dad.
I must confess that, as an adult, I do not usually enjoy winter – even with its tender memories – there are long days that are cold, dark, and uninviting. However, this year is different. This winter I am healing. I am being wrapped in a blanket of rest as my body is recovering.
Retreating, taking a season to recover is sometimes necessary. Our Lord modeled this as the scriptures tell us he took time away from his ministry to pray. For Jesus, retreating to pray was a spiritual discipline as it connected him to his Father and replenished his body. During this season not only is my physical body being renewed but my spirit is also being strengthened. As the days are getting longer, my body is coming alive, ready for a new healthy season.
And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.