“I cannot liken it to anything that I know of better than the snow which melts in the sun. You wake up one morning and all the trees are festooned with snowy wreaths, while down below upon the ground the snow lies in a white sheet over everything. Lo, the sun has risen, its beams shed a genial warmth; and in a few hours where is the snow? It has passed away. Had you hired a thousand carts and horses and machines to sweep it away it could not have been more effectually removed. It has passed away. That is what the Lord does in the new creation: his love shines on the soul, his grace renews us, the old things pass away as a matter of course. Where His blessed face beams with grace and truth, as the sun with warmth of light, He dissolves the bands of sin’s long frost, and brings on the spring of grace with newness of buds and flowers.
I first came across this quote from Charles Spurgeon in Rejoicing in Christ by Michael Reeves, and it has stuck with me since. Spurgeon refers more generally to Christ’s work in salvation to make us a new creation, but I think the imagery works just as well to describe his work to renew us day by day (2 Cor 4:16-18, 5:16-18).
Awakening to an Icy Heart:
Each day we awaken with a layer of snow, as it were, over our hearts. Morning has a way of surfacing the anxieties and frustrations of the day before. These thoughts weigh us down and threaten to discourage us before the day has even begun.
Morning can also be when we feel furthest from God. I usually do my devotions in the morning. However, if I’m not vigilant, my heart will drift away from spiritual things as the day goes on. By the next morning, I’ll wake to a feeling of dullness towards God. He’ll seem abstract and distant, separate from the cares and worries of my real life.
Basking in the Warm Sun
In the early days of the pandemic, I’d wake up before work and drive to a nearby park to do my devotions. This began as a way to avoid distraction and escape the feeling of being cooped up. Soon, however, it became just as much about enjoying the outdoors. Before and after reading, I’d walk around, pray, and take in the beauty of early morning: the stillness, the crisp air, the vivid green of the trees and grass, and best of all, the gentle warmth of the sun.
The word I’d use to describe these morning strolls is “basking”. A loose definition for basking is lying (in my case, walking) in the warmth and light of the sun for relaxation; or reveling in and making the most of something pleasing. Basking in the sun provides an apt image for how to revive our anxious hearts and cold affections: our hearts are thawed and rekindled when we bask in the warmth of God’s love for us.
In his exposition of the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Our Father’, Martyn Lloyd-Jones talks about the importance of pausing in prayer to remember who God is. We are tempted to jump straight to supplication. Lloyd-Jones describes our natural instinct in this way:
“Pressed by the urgency of our position, the cares, the anxieties, the troubles, the anguish of mind, the bleeding heart…we are so full of this that, like children, we start speaking at once.”
Instead, Lloyd-Jones counsels us to pause and remember what prayer is and with whom we are speaking. This is a fundamental shift in our perspectives. The chief consolation of prayer is not relief from our circumstances but a restored experiential understanding that God is our Father, who loves us with an unending, steadfast love.
Lloyd Jones concludes:
“Do you know that the essence of true prayer is found in two words…’Our Father’? I suggest that if you can say from your heart, whatever your condition, ‘My Father’, in a sense your prayer is already answered. It is just this realization of our relationship to God that we so sadly lack.”
What a difference it makes when we remember anew that God is our Father. In prayer, we come before the God who gives new mercies every morning (Lam 3:21-33); who has shown the light of the Gospel in our hearts through Christ (2 Cor 4:6); and who despite our coldness, calls us his children and draws us near (1 Jn 3:1).
Our hearts may not thaw all at once, and we need more than cursory reminders of God’s love to calm our fretful hearts. We need to bask in our Father’s love and care, the way we might enjoy the morning sun on an unhurried stroll. Pause. Remember you are coming into the presence of your Father in Heaven. Dwell upon both his nearness and his majesty. Be still and know that his fatherly care covers and eclipses every worry you face. Then, rest in that love.
I find that when I begin times of prayer in this way, God warms my affections, and I slowly but surely experience what Spurgeon describes: Lo, the sun has risen, its beams shed a genial warmth; and in a few hours where is the snow? It has passed away.
This is part 2 of a series on metaphors for prayer. You can find the previous post here.
Reading your post in my email made me think. Prayer is a way that “puts us in our place” because engaging in it can make you realize “you’re talking to GOD”
So if we are afraid or wary of that, it’s actually APPEALING and easier to live a mundane/eartly focus in life because it’s more attractive to just enjoy food/company/comfort than engage in something very hard but very meaningful.
Kind of like being a superhero, if we could, we’d choose the easier life. Kind of like people preferring to be a peasant than being a prince/king. In this sense, stories where people decline the burden of responsibilities on them becomes very relatable… (lots of anime tropes come to mind lol)