It’s been a long winter here in the midwest, and that’s putting it mildly.
We been frozen by polar vortexes, blanketed in snow and buffeted by icy north winds with hardly a day to clear the roads and sidewalks before the next winter advisory descends from the National Weather Service like a jury handing down an overly harsh sentence far exceeding the crime.
Of course there are the chronic complainers, people who start complaining on Facebook in November, the first night the frost descended, wilting what was left of summer’s tomatoes, still on the vine. But most of us are of hardier stock, and have built a resilience to the harsh realities of overly hot and humid summers and bone-chillingly cold winters. And most of the time, we even enjoy the variety, the beauty of falling snow, the hush that descends as it piles up on yards and swing sets. And we even embrace the familiar rituals of playing in the snow, transitioning our wardrobes to sweaters and fleeces, sledding with the kids, drinking hot chocolate and waiting with abated breath for news of school closings.
But, this winter, even the hardiest among us grow weary. We’ve moved from the good-natured jokes we tell about snowy days to sighs of exasperation and defeat. We’ve grown weary of rescheduling cancelled events, and even the cheeriest among us feel the seasonal affective disorder gnawing at our frozen fingers and toes. And we feel our good spirits slipping. We feel ourselves withdrawing into ourselves, snapping at those we love the most, resenting everyone we know that lives or visits somewhere warm – even when it’s a work trip.
“This is just so unbelievable,” I said to Jennifer with a sigh on the phone earlier today as I watched the snow out of my office window. Spring Break is always our favorite family trip, but this year, I don’t know if I can hold out for 5 more weeks. While I usually love the variation of weather, I feel it wearing at me. I find myself staring out the window, lethargically contemplating the next task while fantasizing of lying on some beach feeling the warmth of the sun beat down on my face and exposed skin. Or, I dream of at least exchanging my office and work attire for flannel pajama pants, sweatshirt and a big, thick blanket, curled up in front of a fire.
Yesterday, I stood before my congregation and I could see it in their eyes too. They are tired, they too feel beat down by this relentless assault. You could see the disappointment register as I informed them that there was yet another snow advisory developing for Monday. (At the time of writing it’s snowing big, wet flakes outside my office window and they say we should expect up to 7″ of additional snow before the afternoon commute.)
And so we prayed together. We acknowledged our depression, our “cabin fever,” our anger at things beyond our control, and we prayed that in our fragility we won’t unnecessarily hurt the ones we love. We prayed that even in our exasperation that God would be with us. And, most importantly, we prayed for hope, reminding ourselves that winter will not last forever. We reminded each other that unlike the endless winter of Narnia, this snow and ice will come to an end. We reminded ourselves that in just a couple weeks the first tulips will begin to push their heads out of the thawing soil.
And most of all, we reminded ourselves that ours is a faith in the spring. We recall that we worship the one who delights in bringing what appears dead to us, back to life. And so, with frozen fingers we hold on to hope, waiting for winter to end.