I love spring. I also hate spring. It’s a wonderful, joyful, depressing time of the year.
I love that the weather is getting warmer. I love that the sun is out, that I don’t have to wear a heavy coat, and I don’t have to blast the heat in my car.
Spring is awesome, but spring is also horrible. It’s a time of allergic torment, when pollen launches an aerial attack on my respiratory system. It’s a time marked by flooding rain. The period from May through June is also a time where I feel at risk of being dragged down into the pits of depression.
See, while spring is a moment to look forward to new possibilities, it’s also a time where I’m tempted to look back on past failure.
This part of the calendar is marked by the two great family holidays: Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. These are days we set aside to honor the first people who ever cared for, encouraged, and disciplined us. However, for me, it’s also a reminder that I have not and may never have an opportunity to replicate all the good things my parents have modeled for me. As a single man approaching 30 years old, I would be naive not to acknowledge that there’s a chance I will never have a wife or a family. I could, but there are no guarantees – except for the steady march of time.
While I’m on that subject, I’m not just childless, I’m single. As a kid, I never thought I’d make it to this age unmarried. That’s kind of funny to say in hindsight. It’s not as if I was beating the ladies off me back then (or now). Still, I feel caught in a tug of war. On the one hand, I want to stand confident in my singleness, pushing back against the notion that being alone is some type of failure. On the other hand, I don’t genuinely want to be single forever, and I’m bothered by the idea that poor decisions on my part could lead to such a fate. What does all this mean? Each spring brings another opportunity for me to watch happy couples enjoy the world together and remember my own Destructive Romantic Passivity (DRS for short, it’s a pseudo-clinical term).
Thinking about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day reminds me of another disappointment, another present I failed to give my parents: my college graduation. Every graduation season, I’m reminded of how my academic career wilted under the pressure of my own poor financial and emotional health. I think about how I was so close to earning my degree, but fear and shame kept me from asking for help when I needed it the most. I think about how I failed to make good of the investment of so many people in my life: parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, godparents, pastors, teachers, friends, and on and on. I think about how I deceived those people – the people who love me – by letting them think I was OK when my world was falling apart and I was dying inside.
Spring isn’t just graduation season, it’s prom season. By now, you know the pattern. I missed out on that, too. So, as the torrents of pictures of send off parties, outrageous suits, and stretch limos flood my Facebook feed, I’m reminded of yet another way my life has fallen short. I could go on to list others: never traveling internationally, still living with my parents, a pile of student loans.
But here’s the thing: no matter how down I get, I can never seem to stay down. Despite my best efforts, my pity parties always seem to end. What I’ve come to learn is this: those who wait upon the Lord really will renew their strength. God doesn’t promise us happiness, but he does give us joy. In this life we will endure hardship that will strip us clean of ever strand of momentary happiness. However, in those very moments, the believer is awakened to the presence of strength-infusing joy, a joy as indestructible as the Holy Spirit who brings it.
Why say this publicly? For starters, I’ve held it in way too long. Two things in this world will destroy you if you hold them in indefinitely: truth and gas. More importantly, it’s an imperfect illustration of a perfect gospel. Forget all the people who tell you how awesome you are. The truth is we all fall way short of God’s standard. We should all be depressed about who we are, just like the Old Testament prophet Isaiah when he stood before perfect, pure, holy God. However, that same God is full of grace, and he extends that grace to us. He offers righteousness to remediate our shortcomings, peace to keep us sane in hard times, and joy to strengthen us at our weakest moments.
So, yes, spring (and a host of other things) makes me sad. You may see me look distraught, or even see me cry, because of allergies, loneliness, personal failure, or all the above (darn pollen!). However, spring also makes me happy. I’m happy because I know that God’s grace has carried me through every storm in my past, and the grace that brought me this far will keep me and carry me home.
Photo Credit: Josh Myers