A few months back my family and I took a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We did so many memorable things from exploring the red rocky shores of the Keweenaw Peninsula, learning about unique rocks and minerals, visiting an Iron Ore museum, trying Pasties for the first time, being refreshed by the cool, inviting green waters of Lake Superior, skipping stones at the park in L’Anse, overlooking the Lake of the Clouds tucked in the beautiful Porcupine Mountains, and roasting hotdogs over the campfire while breathing in the mix of savory smoke and the crisp U.P. air. On one of our scenic drives, I sat staring out the window watching perfectly shaped blue spruces pierce through the surrounding deciduous trees filled with white birches that formed a frame around brown trunks and lush green leaves. I was surprised to see them looking so healthy given the kind of weather they endure. Years ago I remember learning about the “Witches of November” as the Uppers call them – the time when brutally cold air travels from northern Canada and picks up speed across Lake Superior sending Hurricane-like winds into the area in which these strong trees grow. They looked like a family with linked arms in a ready position for whatever life might throw at them. The reason these trees must look so robust is not only because of the harsh winters they endure but also because of how closely they link arms with one another. Recently I learned that in fact, White Birch trees will not survive on their own. They actually rely on holding hands with other trees for their survival. Could it be that God has created people with this same need for dependency?
Many individuals I know, including myself, have felt as though we are in the season of November where the witches – or demonic forces – have picked up with intensity and have thrown hurricane-like trials into our lives. Snowballs of fear, disappointment, sadness, intense loss, grief, anxiety, or depression have been launched at us over and over again. It feels like it’s just too much for us to bear on our own. And that’s because it is.
In the midst of spiritual warfare, grief, doubts, fears, and depression I have found a hope and peace that has nothing to do with me pulling myself up by my bootstraps but everything to do with the people and support groups that surround me. Counselors, friends, family, my church, coffee dates, Bible studies, homeschool groups, the prayer team – these have been my nearby trees to keep me rooted during the emotional, spiritual, and physical “Witches of November.”
But what if linking arms and being unified wasn’t just for our own vitality? What if being unified had an ever greater eternal purpose?
Currently my kids and I are doing a unit study on the Vikings. Though many of their fierce raids were motivated by gaining power and wealth, one admirable quality they had was their reliance on teamwork. Because so many of them were able to unify over a common cause – whether to gain wealth or defend an Emporer – they were able to win wars, overcome obstacles, and accomplish huge feats.
What if Christians could unify like the Vikings? What if we were able to put aside our “small rocks” as our pastor likes to call them in order to unify over the “big rocks” such as standing firm on the infallible Word of God and reaching people for Christ? If Vikings can unify for earthly causes such as wealth and power and accomplish great things without even the help of the Holy Spirit, how much more could the name of Jesus be lifted up if we were united over THIS purpose WITH the power of the Holy Spirit? Not only would we personally find purpose and vitality, but so would the Church.
My kids and I were praying for a revival this morning. But I think that can only occur when we let go of our differences, refuse isolation, and stand united for the eternal cause of pointing people to Jesus.
But this isn’t just our supplication, it’s His. Jesus said, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Hebrews 10:25 says, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
As we approach the coming of our Lord, the Bible promises that birth pains will only increase. We need each other now more than ever if we want to stand strong against the “Witches of November” aka Satan and his demons – who know their time is short.
If the Vikings could unify and give up their lives for riches and fame and if the piercing evergreens and brilliant white birches can stand in unison to survive the harsh winters, then I am confident that the Church has even greater power and potential to not only grow stronger through this season but to thrive and radiate Christ like never before.