Last week, a huge ice storm hit the southern half of our state with devastating effect. For the last couple days I’ve been reading emails from pastors and relief workers about households without electricity, the closing of schools and churches, the irreplaceable loss of ancient trees, the extraordinary damage to homes and businesses. During the last few weeks, I’ve awakened to temperatures as low as eight and five and two degrees, and even minus two degrees. Like everyone else, I’ve trudged through snow, slid on ice, and tried to disguise the worry in my voice as I’ve sent my son off each day for his fifty-mile drive to school and back. Winter has been real this year. Really real.
I’m a south Texas boy. I grew up in desert terrain. It snowed once when I was in the third grade, and that only lasted a day. During the twenty years before moving to Missouri, I lived where there are parrots in palm trees during the winter, and where freezes are measured by the number of hours the temperature dips below thirty-two rather than by the weeks without rising above thirty-two.
Maybe it’s because of my desert upbringing and Texas blood that I need outdoors and sunlight, and my soul feels constricted when I’m forced inside for too long. All my favorite past-times draw me outside – running, walking, birding, biking, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, camping. I need outside time in each day. I need sun on my face.
This past Saturday, the weather broke and the sun came shining through. It was like an unexpected reprieve, a precious grace. I had a light Saturday schedule – a drive to Jefferson City to meet with college students, a conference call, some correspondence. I drove everywhere I went with windows wide open. Fresh air, seventy degrees, lots of sunlight. I was in heaven. When I got home, I changed clothes and headed for the running trails. Everyone on every bicycle had a smile on her face, parents were pushing strollers, and dogs were pulling their owners along with excited eagerness. What a gift.
After I came home, I spent time on the back patio cleaning and replenishing our bird feeders. Birds of all types – Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Cardinals, Juncos, Doves, Starlings, Sparrows, and even a shy little Carolina Wren – darted and danced everywhere around me.
I was so inspired by the bright sunlight that I dared to suggest to the family that we cook outside on the grill. Uncovering the old grill, loading it with coals, and lighting it up felt like some kind of rebellion, a statement of hope and anticipation, a taunt against the winter ice and cold. I had to do something to align my spirit with the sunlight and warmth even though I know there will be much winter yet to face. Others joined the insurrection and one of my sons suggested we eat outdoors. Yes! Grilled burgers on the outdoor patio in the quiet of a warm, beautiful evening in the midst of winter. How cool!
Following a deep personal loss, the philosopher Albert Camus wrote, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” His winter was one of the soul. The light he sought was of new life, of re-established hope, of resurrection. His words contain a valuable truth. At the deepest levels of our existence, even in the moment of our darkest hour and our deepest discouragement, there is still a spark, the beginnings of a flame, the movement toward life, value, passion, and meaning. In our most painful moments, we can experience life in the deepest way and become the persons God created us to become, full of life and new life.
Whatever the winter of your life – physical or spiritual, relational or emotional – rebel against it. With great audacity and hope, and against all the odds, practice resurrection. In the midst of winter, look to the summer, the invincible summer.
Yours in Christ,