Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Promise of Winter

One of my treasured books for this time of year is a book of winter reflections by Martin Marty. Commenting on black and white seasonal photos taken by his son, Dr. Marty believes winter is a promising time for spiritual reflection. As he notes,

Winter has its inevitable place in the human condition. Farmers know that in the rhythm of the year and the nature of the soil, there is a reason for fields to lie fallow for a season. So too we know that in the rhythm of the day and the nature of the soul, there are reasons for the pace of our thought and for our spiritual reflection to vary. (The Promise of Winter, p. 7)

The promise of winter, says Dr. Marty, is not an easy or inevitable spring. Rather the promise comes from God who speaks throughout the seasons. Sometimes the heavy snow slows us down, cancels all distractions, and causes us to be more careful with our lives. A good storm can also invite us to catch up with the inward movements of the soul that we've been too busy to notice.

On a snow day I pulled on my boots and took the camera outside. The digital camera that normally sees in color began to catch images in shades of black and white. That seems to be the invitation, not only of winter, but of the spiritual life. We can discover the places within us that have lost their luster, and we can reflect on the situations that beg for a fresh covering.

Meanwhile the snow still falls through no power of our own, and there's something purifying about it. The white blanket covers the grunge of an unkempt backyard. The lumps and dents in an uneven lawn are leveled off. Dull ordinary things suddenly look better than we expected. It's true that a snowfall can present a necessary burden to remove or blow away. But it can also create new forms of beauty.

What do we need most - beauty or burden - as we begin our late winter journey toward the cross?

Keep the faith, and drive carefully out there.

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