Look for the Life

Friendly Reminder: A weekly reflection from the Quaker Leadership Center

This is a season of darkness, dormancy and even death. As someone who lives with seasonal affective disorder, I sometimes dread the arrival of winter. And yet, I do enjoy snow, and the holidays, and cozy evenings inside. A couple years ago, I read a book called Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. It is full of wisdom and it helped me realize how much suffering American folks like me have created for ourselves by “raging against the dying of the light.” When we learn to accept the reality and beauty of seasons, we can relax into a receptive state to receive the arrival of surprising gifts. When we accept the presence of darkness, dormancy and death, we find ourselves surprised by the presence of light, energy and life. Even in the wintertimes.

Quaker minister Scott Wagner recently brought forth this idea of surprising life in a post on Facebook, drawing on the biblical visions of Isaiah. He wrote:

Later this morning, my prepared message will be in Isaiah 11:1-10 and the shoot that grows from the dead stump…the “shoot” of new life. It’s caused me to wonder what the new, green “shoots” of life will look like from the stump of Quakerism. Understandably, there is a lot of hand wringing going on around the future of Quakers and small numbers and struggling meetings. Maybe Isaiah and Advent invite us to pay attention to the new “shoots” of life that are emerging in our very midst. Maybe these new “shoots” of new life have the potential to bear the fruit of the peaceable kingdom that Isaiah so beautifully describes. We as Quakers might feel like stumps, but maybe there are new “shoots” of flourishing life in our very midst. Pay attention.

That Friend speaks my mind. Let’s not pretend there is no winter. Let’s not pretend we don’t see signs of darkness, dormancy and decay—in our inner life, in our Society of Friends, in our world. But let’s also be open to signs of new life, even small ones.

Leaders look for life. And they invite others to look for it. And they nurture and celebrate life, because it is so often a sign of the Spirit.

There is “that of God” in every season.