When we first decided to move from Utah to Virginia, it was the tragedy of my youth to think of white Christmases being optional, and snowmen appearing about as often as February the 29th. Being huddled around a Dad-made roaring fire with a cup of hot cocoa, while the snow refused to let up outside, seemed an irrevocable part of my childhood, and the absence of it seemed a terrible prospect. The fact that “pending snow” constitutes a reason for canceling school in Virginia was only a small compensation.
I love snow for the days of sledding and building igloos and snowball fights and snow angels. I love walking behind someone and trying to stay exactly in their footsteps to keep your feet warm, developing in a very feet-on way a better understanding of the benefit of following in the Master’s footsteps. I love that snow insulates the world and cuts the ambient noise of living, so that a snowy night is often also a night of perfect and profound stillness. I love that on those same nights, the virgin snow catches the rays of moonlight and glitters like some previously undiscovered treasure.
That being said, I hate snow. It’s all well and good when you’re a child, and you don’t have any responsibilities, and you don’t have a car to find iced over when you’re already running late. It’s fine when you can pull off wearing little pink moon boots to keep your feet warm and dry, and your parents are there to do things for you when you’re too cold to go out. But when you grow up and grow into to being responsible to be places and do things despite the snow, and your feet have grown larger than any pair of pink moon boots, and your parents aren’t there, and you realize you only liked hot cocoa when they were, snow is no longer magical and fun.
I don’t mean to be a sniveling creature of complaint, but here in my college home, we’re trying to save on utilities by keeping the heat down in our house, and even though we’ve insulated with dollar store socks stuffed with newspaper, the cold of the snow is closing in, and I can think of little else. I love the snow of Good King Wesceslas; deep and crisp and even, but only if I get to look at it and not live in it.
Utah is such a tease, those things about our cold house and the slick snow were true during the second half of December, into January and the beginning of February, and then we were offered days of balmy weather. Days where you say people fraternizing in short sleeves and tossing Frisbees. You can smell spring in the air on days like that, and you start to regret having invested in a gym pass when it looks like you’re going to be able to exercise in the sunshine after all.
Then the next morning as you’re slipping on your shoes (rather than the ice) to try out a sun-run, you fling open the front door and it snowed two feet overnight. That just seems plain, old unfair. There’s a really awful horror film that was made from a Stephen King story called 1408. In it, this man stays in a hotel room that everyone warns him to stay away from. He spends the entire film trying to get out of the room, and each time, the clock goes back to what it was when he got there and “We’ve Only Just Begun” by The Carpenters begins to play (way to ruin that song for me). A few times, the room makes him believe he’s freed himself, and then each time, he finds that he’s “only just begun.” At one point, upon finding himself back in this terrifying situation he screams “I WAS OUT!”
That’s what my heart shouts when I greet the day in my exercise shorts and T-shirt only to find that all the cars look like soufflés with outrageous volumes of the white stuff piled high. When I get sprayed from head to toe with muddy slush because a car drove through an obliging puddle just so (seriously, I thought that only happened in movies), I see that the spring smell and those Frisbees were all in my head, and I yell inside “I WAS OUT!”
The past couple of weeks have made me realize that sometimes hurt feelings or disappointments or losing streaks get like that too. You feel like you’re downright gliding on the up, and up and you feel like nothing can possibly get you down—then you’re suddenly and jarringly broadsided by something you already knew was coming, and you thought you’d already dealt with. Bits of your broken heart you thought you’d patched up, suddenly gape again. Unshakeable confidence suddenly shaken. Even after reminding yourself that it would be ok to relapse, those relapses come as a total shock, and the Pandora’s box of frustration and disappointment is thrust open just when you thought you had it welded shut, or even convinced yourself that you’d gotten rid of the box all together.
The great thing about it though, winning streaks relapse too. If you maintain the sense of self, which you thought was only a product of success, long enough to make it innate, and work as hard as ever whether you’re receiving the fruits of those labors or not, eventually something good will happen. Eventually, the sun will shine long enough to go running or even picnic in it. When winter’s getting you down, be like Abraham who “died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off” and trusted the Lord to the very end. Do that, and you’ll undoubtedly find that what you thought was the end, wasn’t an end at all, but a glorious beginning.