How many lessons of faith and beauty we should lose if there were no winter in our year.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
The world is white today. Beautiful, really. The same brush strokes that painted the world white also hit the pause button on the repetitive tapes of routine daily life and created a thousand still shots: mixtures of laughter, fun, relaxation, warm cups, warmer hearts, cozy mittens, scarves, and snowballs. Through filtered computer light I’ve seen pictures of snowsuits, snow boots, snowmen, snow forts, snow angels, sleds, and at least a hundred cold, smiling faces.
My home is quiet. No one trekking in and out of the snow. No nudges or pleas to go outside and play. No sledding or snow forts. It’s a quiet sanctuary with no schedule apart from hot coffee, warm soup, and wide eyes watching the snow fall. The backyard bird feeders are frozen, the birdbath a mound of snow; yet, ever hopeful, birds and squirrels still scamper around looking for hidden morsels. So much to see and think about when the world is on pause…or at least moving in slow motion.
Measuring up. What a strange thought to entertain on a snowy day. Was it the varied predictions of how much snow, how low the temperatures, various cancellations, and other life disruptions that prompted the thought? Maybe it was images and thoughts far less tangible than measured inches of snow or falling levels of mercury: laughter outside, pictures on phones and computer screens: rounded red faces flushed by winter wind, puffy balls of children swaddled in warm coats and hats, brave snowmen standing proudly in the midst of their cold, humble beginnings. They all seemed to project carefree laughter and unbridled joy from a three inch still shot photo on the computer screen. What did any of those images have to do with measuring up? It didn’t take long for a barrage of questions to assault my thoughts and accuse my mind. Was I a bad mom for basking in the warmth of fuzzy blankets, inviting books, and warm, soothing coffee? Should I bundle up the kids and rush outside to make cold noses and warm memories? But wait…the kids are grown and making snowballs or enjoying quiet moments on their own. Why did I even go there? Then more questions…had I done it well, did they have good memories, why didn’t we get this much snow when they were younger and eager to play in the snow? What would they remember? Such simple, seemingly unimportant questions. How insidiously the comparison trap begins…
But it isn’t really about the snow. It’s about the questions, the feelings, and the accusations. I see it everyday in a hundred different ways: comparison, competition, struggling, striving, never quite feeling good enough. I see it in people who have worked themselves into exhaustion, sickness, and depression. I see it in the tired eyes of the lonely woman, the defeated man, the bullied teenager, the insecure child, the dropout, the addict, the weary. I see how it tries to sneak in, unseen, into simple everyday thoughts, plans, and observations. I should have… I could have… Why didn’t I… I wish… Like cold hard snowballs thrown mercilessly by the enemy, they always seem to find a weak spot or an unguarded target.
In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. -Romans 8:1
Where do the thoughts, the lies, the accusations, and the comparisons come from? When did they start? Why are the voices so familiar? Could it be that the struggle isn’t new at all? Could it all be a picture of the ancient struggle that began in Genesis 3 with two simple yet opposing questions?
“Did God really say..?” And, “Who told you that…?”
Who told you that you weren’t good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough, not pretty enough, not a good mom, not a good wife, not a good friend, not loved…just not enough?
What did God really say?
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. I Peter 2:9
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39
The Lord your God in your midst; the Mighty One, will save. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing. Zeph 3:17
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6
No longer do I call you slaves…but I have called you friends. John 15:15
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Tim 1:7
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.. Psalm 139:14
Why snowflakes and snowmen made me think of measuring up…I’m not quite sure. Snowmen are created in various shapes, sizes, and circumstances. Often forged during difficult times and always cold seasons. Their lives are intentional but fleeting. They are masterfully crafted and shaped and each is unique.
And us? Masterfully crafted and unique? Fearfully and wonderfully made? What will it take to believe that? How can we be intentional? What would it look like to find others willing to step into the cold, messy storm with us to lend a hand, to support, to strengthen, or just stand by us in the coldest moments? Are two really better than one? Does the right presence bring warmth even in our hardest, coldest. or most vulnerable moments? What does it really mean to take every thought captive and walk in truth and peace?
Suggestion: Frequently set aside time for a thought check and belief inventory: What do you believe? To whom or what do you give the power to define you and affect your beliefs and feelings? And a support inventory: Who do you love, trust, and believe? Who will walk with you and give honest reflection of your strengths, your weaknesses, and your worth? All the voices, images, memories, and ideas we are exposed to have power to create beliefs and self-imposed definitions. Some realistic and accurate, others false, unrealistic, or even unattainable. So we compare. Or we condemn. We measure. Others and ourselves. How will you measure your worth today?
Those were my thoughts on this cold snowy day.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8