Flourishing in Winter - Hope 103.2

Flourishing in Winter

Everyone's life is NOT full-steam-ahead, non-stop productivity. So, is it possible to flourish in winter?

By Brian HarrisMonday 3 Jul 2023LifeReading Time: 4 minutes

I’ve been talking about flourishing a fair bit lately.

Recently, someone asked me: “Is it possible to flourish in winter?”

A lot depends on what is meant by flourishing.

If it means being highly productive and in a state where everything goes well, presumably not.

That’s not what happens in winter, for winter is the season of slowing down, staying indoors and putting in some sober reflection.

Whether it is the actual season of winter or a season of your life that is wintry, it is not a “go and glow” time.

If you confuse winter for summer, frost bite is a short step away.

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Perhaps the question could have been phrased differently.

How about asking, “Is it possible to flourish without winter?”

Ah, that one opens a lot more possibilities.

Technically, I imagine the answer is “yes”.

There are plenty of youthful multi-millionaires, many of whom have seen success after success and know little of the icy blasts of winter.

How long their summer will last is another question, but there is nothing inherently impossible about achieving many successes early in life.

Indeed, it happens for almost all sporting stars.

Most are past peak after 30 so, if early success does not come, it is unlikely to come at all.

Any full life has its winter seasons

For all that, any full life has its winters.

Actually if you are into seasons, 25 per cent of life is winter.

It certainly isn’t non-stop, full-steam-ahead productivity.

So back to the question, “Is it possible to flourish in winter?”

Here’s the thing. If I think about the deepest aspects of flourishing, it seems to me that most flourishing starts in winter.

I’ve seen so many people do their deepest work when the trappings of success are stripped away and they ask the questions which matter and devote time to the significant.

I’m thinking of a series of pastoral conversations I had with a church member who died about 30 years ago.

Though the discussions ended decades back, they left their mark.

She had cancer and after some early optimism that it would be cured, she settled down to the slow realisation her years would be limited to around 57.

Bucket list dreams changed with each new treatment failure.

In the end, they morphed into one.

She had a very troubled relationship with her three children – probably the result of a messy marriage break-up.

She wanted to be at peace with each of them before “the shades lengthen and the evening comes, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over and our work is done” – to quote Cardinal Newman’s magnificent prayer.

It started in the usual place.

She explained how they had been so unfair to her and were being unreasonable and uncaring.

The problem was theirs, but the heartache was hers.

Winters force us to dig deep

Except that is not at all the way her children saw it.

They had more than a few examples to justify their stance.

They felt a little trapped, as though their mother’s imminent demise was forcing them to overlook wrongs which had etched deep scars in their psyche.

They had each decided they would allow the chill between them and her to thaw a little but were not looking for or expecting much more.

They anticipated a modest funeral with perhaps a tear or two for what had not been, and then to get on with their lives with her permanently deleted and forgotten.

Somehow, in the excruciatingly hard work that people sometimes do in winter, something changed.

It was a deep-down, gut-wrenching reconciliation.

It involved seeing things differently and telling their stories within a new frame – one which made room for frailty, foolishness, error and fear.

When all the anger and rage lifted, they realised the divide between hate and love is often astonishingly thin.

What they had accepted as hate was, really, profound love that had been deeply wounded.

Reconciliation and death were not far apart, but this was no longer a funeral of shallow grief.

In a strange way, it was one of deep gratitude – gratitude for winter, and the flourishing that sometimes only takes place in winter.

Gratitude for reframed memories, memories which now empower and bring hope.

There is so much more I could say – but for today, I think this is enough.

Whoever wrote Ecclesiastes was wise enough to note that there is a time and season for everything.

There is indeed a time for winter.

There is indeed a time to flourish…

Article supplied with thanks to Brian Harris.

About the Author: Brian is a sought-after speaker, teacher, leader, writer and respected theologian who has authored 6 books. After 17 years as principal of Perth’s Vose Seminary, Brian is now founding director of the AVENIR Leadership Institute, fostering leaders who will make a positive impact on the world.

Feature image: Photo by Genessa Panainte on Unsplash