If you're lolling in the sunshine at this very moment, this article isn't for you. This piece is about winter. It's about snow and ice and slush and sleet. The kind that adds precious minutes to your morning routine, that splatters your new skirt, that makes you want to be a complete hermit until Springtime.
Last winter, I told my kids I wanted to be like a bear and hibernate. I hated winter. I raged against the grey-toned skies, the mounds of snow, the unbearable cold. But this year, I have resolved to change my winter-woe ways. Why? Because one of my children asked a very important question:
"Why did God make winter?" he asked, as we drove to school.
Hmmmmm… Funny, I'd never thought about God being part of the frigid equation. In the blissful summertime, I thanked God joyously at each golden minute for sending us that enchanted season. But as winter moved in, my attitude sure changed. Of course, God was responsible for bringing winter, but I always viewed it as a sort of punishment. My son's question, though, brought me up short. Why did God bring winter each year? The punishing view of winter suddenly seemed ridiculous. Surely, our kind, loving God did not intend to punish us each year, from roughly December through April. Perhaps He was giving us a gift instead, wrapped in white, tied with a below-zero ribbon.
So with that viewpoint in mind, here are some thoughts on the gifts of winter.
Stop and Smell the Snowflakes
Beauty abounds during winter. It's a different beauty than the lush spread of summer, but its beauty is indisputable. The illuminated sky on a winter night reflects the spotless snow for miles on end, producing an almost ethereal glow. Close examination of the humble snowflake reveals its incomprehensible intricacy -- it is a pattern within a pattern, created by omnipotent Genius for our viewing pleasure. And face it -- snow could have been black, grey, or brown, with utterly different results. The pure white is definitely uplifting.
Be a Kid Again
Remember when you were a kid and made snow angels? Winter offers a chance for people of all ages to have fun and live life a little, in a myriad of ways. In the privacy of your backyard, you have the opportunity to recapture a small taste of reckless, childhood fun. Snow is free, it's abundant, and you don't have to worry about using it up -- it's a renewable resource! Family activities involving snow abound, and there's nothing quite like the memory of a high energy snowman-building project, followed by some hot cocoa.
Perhaps it's because of the slowing down most of us do when winter arrives, that God, in His wisdom, gave us rich opportunities for exercise and physical fitness -- and they're not necessarily optional. Shoveling is a great way to get a workout, and even walking through the resistant snow affords a fitness opportunity. God knows us better than we know ourselves, and evidently He knows how those hot chocolate calories add up. So instead of pressuring us into buying a gym membership, He gives us free exercise nearly every day!
There's no question that winter weather slows us down. If not physically, it detains us with extra minutes bundling up the kids, brushing off the car, or crawling down an unplowed street at 10 mph. In our on-the-go lifestyles, this kind of slowing down is a nuisance, a hassle, a downright menace. Yet, is it really so bad? If the kids get to school a couple minutes late, or you have 15 fewer minutes to shop, is that really such a tragedy? The expression "chilled out" comes to mind, and there's no better time to be "chilled" than when the thermometer drops.
A Reality Check
It's not so bad to have to acquiesce to a power greater than ourselves for a few months a year. Sure, it's easier not to deal with snow, but there's an important life-lesson that we can internalize when God ups the ante on our every day routines. We are not invincible, we are not all-powerful. Despite the huge advances we have made in technology, in medicine, and all across the board, we still are immobilized when five inches of snow is dumped down from the heavens. Nothing wrong with pondering our frail humanity for a little while, especially when we follow it through to its logical conclusion: God, bearer of the winter weather and every other aspect of our lives, is All Powerful, and it's about time we submit ourselves to His will!
Is it just me, or do we all do more praying in the winter, on a daily basis, than in any other season? While I've heard people pray that a summer day's temperature not exceed 78 degrees, my prayers during wintertime are much more heartfelt. As in: "Please God, protect my car from skidding." "Please don't let me fall on this ice!" "Please put an extra dosage of compassion in the carpool supervisor when I come ten minutes late because of weather delays!" All this prayer can't be bad, right? It is interesting to note that while winter is essentially a "dead" season, it sets the stage for the vitality and bounty of spring and summer. Where do all these whispered winter prayers go? Surely, to a good place, with numerous, miraculous results.
To tell you the truth, I couldn't see past the bleak, frigid, unapproachable face of winter until I opened my mind to its hidden blessings. I hope that this year, winter will be a more positive experience for me and my family. A time to reflect, a time to bond, a time to nourish the latent spiritual potential that begs to be ignited -- and what better inspiration than a good snowball fight?