A Wintry Grace

A Wintry Grace

Snow has a way of making people live out the Golden Rule a bit better.

Perhaps this doesn’t happen for all five months of winter, but the first few snowfalls find my vehicular encounters with people more pleasant as a whole. People are more inclined to give extra space, wait for someone to pull ahead of them, use blinkers, and not honk when a car is sliding through the intersection with a clearly red light.

In short, we seem to naturally offer more grace to one another.

As I navigated the snowy roads a few nights ago, I was wondering why we find it more natural to be gracious in such situations, when normal driving conditions often bring out the frustrated side of humanity. Maybe it is because it is in our best interest to be gracious. Although the light may be green, it is clearly better for us to wait until the skidding car careens out of the intersection, rather than race toward it because the light indicates we can. Or maybe we don’t desire an accident and the headache that insurance claims naturally bring about.

But maybe, just maybe, it is because we are able to recognize a connection that goes beyond our personal best interest and draws us together as humans. The journey home in inclement weather gives me this feeling of unity that is similar to what I feel when an ambulance or fire truck or funeral procession passes by. For a moment, we are united by something that surpasses our personal desires and we acknowledge that someone else takes precedence.

Grace is often spoken of in relation to God’s free and unmerited favor toward us. While that is true and necessary, grace is also something we offer one another. The unmerited part is particularly difficult for us, though. Oftentimes, there is a natural sense of justice we have about what another deserves, but grace is giving people what they don’t deserve. We acknowledge what could be a fair response toward them and then we choose to be more generous than needed. And because it is freely given, that means it is a gift. In a moment of difficulty, we choose to bestow upon the other a gift they don’t deserve, but one which might cause them to change in some way.

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It isn’t unpleasant

It isn’t unpleasant

I don’t usually watch the weather on TV. If I want to know what is headed my way, I check the weather app on my phone or I look up one of the local TV stations websites to see what is forecasted. But this past weekend, as I visited my parents at their house, we watched the beginning of the news to catch the weather report.

It is winter in South Dakota and so high temps and bright sunshine aren’t always in the forecast. Over Thanksgiving weekend, we had snow, rain, sleet, and the typical gusty wind on the prairie. Yet when the news announced the weather, they told us to brace for unpleasant weather. That ordinarily wouldn’t have seemed so striking, but for some reason, that word unpleasant struck a chord.

Already, before the weather has even hit, they are telling me how I ought to feel about it.

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The Gift of Winter

Snow in the Swiss Alps
When did snow become a drudgery?  I’m sitting in my classroom, grading papers, trying to let Pandora play music uninterruptedly and outside snow is gently falling.  It has been fluttering down for a few hours now and it looks peaceful.  Instead of an empty classroom, I should be in a cozy living room, warming my chilled fingers on a cup of hot chocolate, and watching the snow design an intricate blanket for the earth.  

This used to be a delight.  The arrival of snow was once something longed for, something wanted.  Now I seem to view it as a necessary evil, the consequence of living in a northern state, a sort of Purgatory on earth.  Yet only a few days ago I was able to witness first hand the disappointment of my 4 year old nephew when the snow melted.  He was debating other things and realized he was losing so he changed the subject.  Whining and with such a sad face that you would want to quickly give him whatever he desired, he told his mother that the snow wasn’t there anymore.  In his short lifetime he had only been through a couple winters and they still held a deep excitement for him.  It amazed me briefly.  I had begun to assume that everyone was as unimpressed and pessimistic about the snow as I was.  My nephew, though, was viewing snow through a gaze of wonder and awe.

When did snow become something I disliked instead of something I anticipated?  I always thought it was when I was required to help with outside chores and I realized that snow and slush make carrying 5 gallon pails of corn remarkably difficult.  I used to don snowpants, gloves, and a hat and go roll in the snow, make snowmen, and just relish in the cool air nipping at my nose.  Now I am more concerned in keeping my feet dry and how quickly I can dash from my car to the warmth of a building.  Much of the wonder of winter has been zapped from my life.  It is there, in brief glimpses of soft snow settling on window sills or the sunlight enhancing the sparkle of the icicles forming at the edge of the roof.  There is a cold sort of beauty that I like with winter, but the moments I rejoice in it are few or only when I am separated from the elements by a windshield or window.

That is my present goal–to embrace the beauty of winter and delight in it.  I plan to begin with putting my things in my car and then, perhaps for only a few seconds, tilting my head back and feeling the snowflakes kiss my face and melt at the brazenness of their touch.  Then I will drive (carefully) home and try to embrace the gift of winter.  Everything is a gift, right?  Today the Lord is offering me the chance to live and experience another winter day.  For all my aged and weary 23 year old bones know, this could be my last winter.