Sunday, February 7, 2010

Nature's Stop Sign

It has become nearly a cliché, but the wisdom is still sound: sometimes we’re so caught up in the “what” of life that we don’t see the “why.” For instance, much of the east coast sits under a blanket of snow and the newscasts incessantly announce what the weather is doing. They prophesy how long they expect it to last, list what organizations are closed, and then march out the statistics: so and so degrees, so many inches. We certainly need this information. But, sometimes we are so caught up in the facts that we don’t take the time to consider if there might be some meaning behind all of this.

Honestly, I’d never really thought about a ‘why’ for the weather before. At least I haven’t thought much beyond the typical question of why disasters happen (which recent events show to be still a valid subject to probe). But what about things like that snowstorm that keeps kids, teachers, and business people alike all glued to the television? Do we ever pause in the midst of the newscast to consider why? Is there perhaps some deeper purpose in simple things like drifts, sleds, and snowballs?

Some years ago, I came across this delightful treasure in the book of Job: “God says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ So that everyone he has made may know his work, he stops all mortals from their labor” (Job 37:-7). Of course, I don’t want to make this more than it is; or to imply that every time the weather acts up, God has specifically planned that for some end. But we perhaps should take more seriously that what we call “bad weather” might actually serve as an imposed invitation to practice what God has always intended: for his people to regularly stop and rest.

When you think about it, this happens in other ways. I have a friend who recently was working at such a frenzied pace he couldn’t slow down even for a moment. Finally, his body just said stop! He got sick and was forced to practice a Sabbath rest for a couple of days. I read this text as God saying, sometimes at least, weather can do the same thing. It’s like He’s saying, “I allow the snow to pile up, just so you crazy humans have to slow down for a minute and breathe.”

So for years it has become a practice for me to view any big snowfall as God’s invitation to stop, play and enjoy his creation. I know, most everybody does this, but the Bible’s wisdom here reminds us that this isn’t just some childhood pleasure, it is a spiritual practice. That means, when Christine and I walked through the woods last week and pretended we were in Narnia, it wasn’t just make-believe. It was a prayer. It was worship. It was connecting to ‘the why’ behind ‘the what’ of our best snowfall in years.

I pray that in these moments God might begin to train me, to train all of us, not to wait for a blizzard to accept his gift of rest.