Panning For Gold In A Frozen Stream
A few weeks ago I watched the mini-series Klondike on the Discovery Channel. It tells a fictionalized story of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896-1899. The Klondike Gold Rush took place in an extremely remote part of the Yukon Territory in western Canada. The winters there were bitterly cold.
You know that face you make when you’re outside in the cold and you squint your eyes, scrunch up your nose and try to tighten up into a ball while you walk? It was that kind of cold.
The main character also served as narrator for the series and at one point said “Winter does its best to kill us.”
Winter does its best to kill us.
It’s true isn’t it? As humans we try hard to avoid this fate. We heat our homes and buy heavy jackets from companies with adventurous names like The Northface or Patagonia.
It’s important to stay warm as we run out for a Venti Mocha Latte from the nearest Starbucks.
Have you heard the expression, “we survived the Winter?” No one speaks of surviving the Spring, do they?
But Winter we survive.
In nature though, in the wild, in places like 19th Century Yukon, Winter really can kill. And when you think about it, that’s the natural order to things. Things are born. They grow. Then they die. When they die, they help new things grow.
We call this fertilizer.
I have a maple tree in my front yard. Right now it’s February and to look at it, that tree is dead. But come this Spring, it will sprout leaves. And the leaves will grow until the tree is a beautiful shade of green again. Then little seeds, at first also green, will turn brown, dry up and fall to the ground spinning like helicopters along the way. The seeds that were once living, will die. They’ll break down in the soil. And soon, new little maple trees will be growing all over my yard.
There is a rhythm to life. A cycle. Birth, life, death and then new life begins again.
Sometimes, things have to die in order for other things to live.
For Christians, this is personified by Jesus. In the book of John, Jesus compares himself to a shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep so “that they may have life and that they might have it more abundantly.”
For Jesus, death wasn’t the end to the story.
It was the beginning.
But this isn’t just a story about life yet to come. Birth, life, death, and new life. It’s a story for now. Because sometimes what has to die isn’t a life.
It’s a thought
Take the disciples. For years they traveled with Jesus. They heard his teachings. They saw his miracles. If anybody should have understood his mission, it was them. But when Jesus said he was going to Jerusalem to die, they tried to stop him. Why?
Because they didn’t understand. The disciples (like most other Jews of the day) had a belief in a different kind of savior. A powerful savior. A military leader to overthrow the oppressive Roman invaders. That leader couldn’t die on a cross. They wouldn’t let him.
For the disciples, their image of Jesus as a conquering hero had to die before before a more abundant image could take it’s place.
On their spiritual journey, some people go through a time referred to as a “dark night of the soul.” It’s a time of questioning and doubt. A time where God seems silent. Your faith is tested as you feel very alone, distinctly apart from God.
It’s a great deal like a cold winter night.
I recently went through such a time. I couldn’t pray. Not at all. I’d try. I’d get down on my knees but nothing would happen. Silence.
My winter lasted over a year.
As I grappled with the situation, my first thought was that perhaps I was angry at God? Or maybe the reason I couldn’t pray was because I simply had no use for him? He wasn’t answering my prayers, so what good was He? Only after a lot of study, discussion and reading did I see the answer.
I had replaced God with an idol.
There was something I wanted more than anything else in the world. Something I thought would make all the other things right. Something that would fill a void in my life. If I could only have that one thing, then nothing else would matter.
That’s what had to die.
Not so much the idol, something I thought would fill a void. I had to let go of the very belief that there was a void to begin with.
That’s pretty heady stuff, I know.
But think about it. If you get that promotion, you’ll look forward to the next one. If you make that million dollars, you’ll decide you need two. If you finally find that relationship, you’ll realize that all that baggage you’d been carrying around, you’ve brought it with you.
Relationships, money, a career. They’re all good things. And worthy to strive for. But if you think those things will “fix” you, then you’ve been mining for fools gold all along.
What do you need to let die in your life so that other things may live?
Is there something that you need to let go of? Something that you think will fill an emptiness? Money? A career? A relationship?
Could it even be a belief? Has your image of God replaced God himself? If so, then like the disciples, you need to let it go.
Because in truth, there is no void. There’s just life. It’s a life more abundant than you can possibly imagine. And it’s all around you.
Winter does its best to kill us. But after every Winter comes a Spring.
Many of these ideas are influenced by or borrowed from the Peter Rollins book The Idolatry of God. Check it out.