32 degrees. That is not the name of a new cool boy band, that is the temperature of the air as I walk out of the house this morning. It’s not that this is a new experience, but where I live, it is a reminder that summer is gone, harvest is over, and “the freeze” of winter is looming.
As I walk across campus on days like today, the conversational greetings begin to change. Where I used to hear, “Good morning, what a beautiful day,” grunting and groaning about the long, gloomy winter season takes over with full force. Except for the skiers and winter sports lovers, it feels that there is a common dread that covers us like a layer of frost on the windshield.
Driving to work this morning however I forced myself to consider what might be “good” and “blessing” in this cold, winter reality. It’s often hard for me to consider good in those things I am convinced are terrible, so I find I have to be very intentional to consider if there is more to those things I might judge as only plight. So here it goes, what could possibly be good about “the freeze” and the frost on the window.
Well first, it reminds me of the blessings I’ve been given. It is part of our human condition I guess, to take for granted those things that are obvious, those things that I experience day to day. All summer, while enjoying the warmth of the sun, the swim in the pool or the lake, the beauty of the flowers; it’s easy to take it all in with a sense of entitlement. “Life owes me.” It owes me the sun, it owes me such beauty, it owes me the fresh fruits and vegetables, and it owes me easy travel on the road as I speed through life. As I scrape the first frost this morning, I can focus on the coldness of the days to come with dread, or I can scrape with a gratitude for the gifts and graces that have been mine over the spring, the summer, and the fall. Each season has brought its share of blessings.
Secondly, I can learn from the rhythm of the seasons that I need rest. God did not just give the weekly Sabbath rest as a principle for life (as important as the weekly rest day is). He also built into the seasons a time of extended rest. The temptation of the contemporary and technological world is to believe that we can be active 24/7. Technology tempts us to believe that we can conquer the cold and the darkness of winter with enough activity and devices. Maybe though we would do better to acknowledge that extended times of rest after seasons of activity, growth, and productivity are part of a cycle of health, not simply for the earth, but for our bodies and for our souls as well.
Thirdly, perhaps a value of the winter cycle is that we are encouraged to stay inside more. Maybe this is a time not simply to kindle a fire to keep our bodies warm, but a time of year to rekindle the relationships of family and friends that often can get lost in the busyness of the year. Family and friend game nights, reading a book with others, making or enjoying music together, sharing stories of our lives, and enjoying the smells of hot chocolate, coffee, and fresh baked pies or cookies; all of these might be needed for vitality and intimacy in our relationships.
So there it is, at least three positive ways to view “the freeze” as it comes upon us once again. Just part of my attempt to live out the spirit of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances (and seasons), for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”