Here in the northeast, the end of January and beginning of February is a unique time of year. We all know that winter is far from over but “cabin fever” sets in, and people are ready for that first, sunny taste of Spring. Thoughts of fishing and camping start coming to mind, and an incoming snow storm is not embraced with very much grace. Fortunately there is a reprieve that usually comes our way during this unsettled time of year. The old timers who lived in the Adirondacks call it the “January”, “Sap” or “Sweet Water” thaw, and it was a promise of warmer weather yet to come.
This early thaw is caused by a shift in the Jet Stream which crosses through our region far overhead. This time of year one part of it tends to take a dip into the western US, and another part of it meanders northward into Canada. This massive “S” shaped movement blocks cold arctic air from flooding into our region and funnels warm southern air up from Texas, Florida and Georgia. Our days can warm into the 40’s and 50’s, and snow-melt runs into the ice-clogged rivers filling them with water once again. If it lasts long enough, Sugar Maples begin to wake up, and the sap begins to make an early run. Indians in our area were the first to collect this maple sap, which they called “sweet water”. Thus, the name “sap thaw” or “sweet water thaw” came into being.
Those who own a sugarbush, where maple sap is collected and evaporated into maple syrup, understand the importance of the sap thaw. The first early run of the regular sap season is like money in the bank. This is because every drop collected during these times has a higher concentration of sugar to water. An early run can be in the order of 30 to 1, which means thirty gallons of sap will produce 1 gallon of syrup. Later runs will have a ratio of 40 to 1, and this produces a very different kind of syrup.
On a few rare occasions there has been an extended “sap thaw”, and people were able to collect enough sap to begin their sugaring season in late January or early February. A very early thaw can produce a ratio as high as 25 to 1. This means the final product will be a sweet, light amber syrup of the highest quality and this will bring a premium price at market. Because the early sap has less water content, it needs less heat to drive off the water and bring it to the right consistency for syrup. Later runs need more evaporation which means more heat must be added, and this produces a darker, stronger flavored syrup that is not as highly prized.
I give this lesson from the maple sugaring industry because I want to illustrate a point. The potential for a sweet syrup is always in the sap, but it takes a lot of heat and time to bring it out. Also, each gallon of maple syrup is made the exact same way. The sap may be boiled in different kinds of evaporators, and they may use different heat sources, but the process is always the same. There is no real shortcut if maple syrup is going to be done right. The point is, it just takes more time to get the syrup when there is a lot of water in the way.
We are just like that maple sap. We naturally come with a lot of excess stuff which has to be dealt with. The harder we hold on to it, the harder it is to get at the final sweet product God placed within us. When we yield easily, the light amber-colored syrup of goodness will flow out of us for all to enjoy. When we don’t quickly yield to the dealings of God, He has to apply more heat in order to get rid of that which is undesirable. This means the process of life will become more and more difficult over time. If we are not careful, these additional dealings will impact many areas of our life, which can change how we see God and life in general.
What I mean is, resistance to the dealings of God only serves to prolong the “heat” He must apply to bring change to our life. That prolonged heat was never intended for us, but it will start to make subtle shifts in what we think, and how we view things. We can begin to doubt God’s goodness and question His love and plans for us. In the end, it can shake our faith, cause us to see ourselves as a victim and even make us stumble in our walk with the Lord. If this continues, what’s in us will begin to become dark and bitter, like the last old run of maple syrup. This all happens because we insist on stubbornly fighting every change God’s is trying to make, and we cling to the things that really need to go.
What about you? Have you been holding on to things God wants to eliminate from your life? Is there anger, unforgiveness, offense, emotional pain, negative people around you, disappointment or other things you are holding on to that are now holding on to you? Perhaps it’s time to yield to the dealings of God, stop the struggle and just let some things go. The fact is, you can’t change your past, but your past does have the power to change your future.
If you hold on to the good things, and release those things that want to hold you hostage, everything will change. You can move forward and finally get to the good stuff God intended for your life. The best part is, all this will happen with a lot less heat simply because you made a shift in the right direction. This could be your season to change. Change your attitude, change your point of view and begin to listen for the sound of running water. Even in the dead of winter, a sap thaw promise of better things to come can be found. That choice, my friends, is always up to you!