If I’m ever asked to say which season of the year I enjoy the most, I really struggle to give an answer - or at least a short one! Is it summer, with trees in full bloom, ripening fields and long days to appreciate them? Is it winter, with crisp frosts, the stark beauty of leafless trees and the magical world of snow? Is it autumn, with its early morning mists, fruitfulness and wonderful displays of reds, oranges and browns? Well, on balance it’s probably spring, with a little bit of winter thrown in!
I particularly love the progression through the months from snowdrops to crocuses to daffodils to tulips to bluebells. Each change seems to announce more loudly that winter is ending and something new is coming. But the defining moment of springtime for me for many years has been the row of lime trees on Twickenham Green near where I live, whose tiny leaves start with a delicate, vibrant green before darkening as they reach maturity.
The words of the second verse of the hymn Great is your faithfulness spring (sorry!) to mind:
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To your great faithfulness, mercy and love.
These words were written by Thomas Chisholm, as a testament to God’s faithfulness through his very ordinary life. Born in a log cabin in Kentucky, USA, Chisholm became a Christian when he was 27 and entered the ministry when he was 36, although poor health forced him to retire after just a year. During the rest of his life, he spent many years living in New Jersey and working as a life insurance agent. Towards the end of his life he said
My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.
He knew with absolute confidence that God is faithful, and he particularly recognised this through the world around him. He penned this hymn out of the truth of Lamentations 3:22,23:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
The cycle of the seasons speaks loudly to me of God’s faithfulness, of someone who’s always doing something new, who brings life out of what seems dead, who gives hope when all seems lost. But the cycle turns so quickly, and it’s easy to miss this continuing, annual reminder of what God is like. I need to make sure I have enough time regularly to be out and about to experience my own times of astonishing gratefulness. And I encourage you to do the same!
Keith Nurse (5 May 2017)