It’s been snowing non-stop where I live for days on end. Before it began our world up here in the mountains was “covered” in snow. Now it buried in snow. You’d never know by looking at it now, that a riot of wildflowers, honey bees, meandering streams, and every color of green resides in our mountains. You’d never know that life, and the seeds of life, and all the joys of life, are present in such abundance that you couldn't count it all. They’re buried. They’re hibernating. They’re in torpor state. But they’re here, just covered; deeply; under about 15 feet (4 meters) of snow. So for now, they're invisible
The picture below, from the inside of our house, is from the second story window, and there’s still a good six weeks of decent snowfall left. Anything we left on the ground last fall won’t be picked up until mid to late May, later if it was left on the north side of the house.
I love the seeming paradox and incongruity that the same mountains that teems with color and sound and life in the summer are reduced to a nearly monochromatic silence in the winter, as the visible signs of life are hidden under layers of storm. If you didn’t know better, it would be, literally, beyond your imagining capacity.
Paul’s prayer that all humans would thrive in spirit, soul, and body, has a reminder embedded in it that we, too, have a profound and vibrant life embedded deeply within us, but buried under layers. We’re told that we’re complete, that we have nothing less than the life of God and the spirit of Christ living within us, that we’re united with Christ, and that we are, each of us, created with unique gifts to contribute to our broken and hurting world. It’s all there - the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness of our creator, along with capacities to express those qualities in ways that only each of us can. Expressing the life of God is not only our calling, it’s the very definition of the “life more abundant” that Jesus came to provide for all humanity.
But it’s buried under layers of rejection, and pain, and failure. There was that time when your mom tore up your art project, or told you that you’d “never amount to anything.” There was inappropriate touching, or a fear of failure that became deeply embedded, or a glaring famine of intimacy and affirmation, or the sudden loss of the parent you loved right when you needed him.
We all took the storms that were piling up and dealt with the pain, each in our own ways. Some became high performers, whether in academics or sport, maybe music or art. Failure was not an option so anxiety and fear of failure drove us to the point of obsession. Others chose to self-medicate the pain of storms with drugs, or lots of alcohol, or the faux intimacy of hooking up. For others, money. Others, power. Others, fear or cynicism. Like so many snowstorms, each layer solidified and condensed down a bit via our coping mechanism. Avalanche experts call this process ‘consolidation,’ and it just means the snow’s not going anywhere until a big melt happens, because it’s become one big, complex mass, or if you’re talking about your human soul, a ‘mess’ instead of a mass.
Like the snow in the pictures, dysfunction can also have beauty. The solid athlete, admired publicly, in spite of his soul demons. The business genius, who’s investment advice is almost literally ‘golden’ but who can’t handle intimacy and vulnerability. The pastor who needs to be needed, living for accolades and influence but who, off stage, isn’t at all sure it’s real, or if it is, that they’re worthy of love. Yes, the consolidated mess that is our souls can, in some cases at least, look pretty - but it’s not. So let me offer some summary good news:
The beauty’s still there; it’s just buried sometimes. How can the person worshiping with hands lifted and serving generously at a community meal be the same person filled with rage as they watch the news, or filled with alcohol as they seek to numb the pain of too many demands, or too many failures? How can we be sacrificial one moment, and lust-filled the next?
This dichotomy is clearly articulated over and over again in the scriptures (see Romans 7 and Galatians 5 for especially clear revelation about this ‘dual nature’)
This is why meditation on our identity in Christ is so important. We need continual reminders that we’re complete in Christ and that the goodness of God resides within us. It falls on us to learn how that life finds expression in daily living. If we fail at that task we become a walking contradiction, declaring with our lips that Christ lives, while also expressing lust, or rage, or power hunger. It’s an all too familiar story.
The thaw will come, if we let it. Just as I’m writing this, the temperature outside rose from below freezing to above and about two feet of snow slid off the roof. It’s a mini thaw, but the beauty of the Lenten season is the reminder that, no matter how deep the snow, how depraved the failure, the fire of God’s Holy Spirit can melt us, so that new life can find expression. It’s ours to, by faith believe this, especially in February, especially when the 2nd story windows are covered.
The thaw will take time - There have been warm rays that have broken through the clouds and melted me when I’ve least expected it. I remember sitting in a couple of conferences and receiving words from the speaker as if I were the only one in the room. Those words allowed the seed of Christ to blossom. There have been words of encouragement and affirmation (all of us are a bit starved for these, I believe), and words of challenge. All of it thaws. Finally, there’s the slow warmth the comes from growing wiser with age. That doesn’t just happen, it requires humility and courage - but it will happen if we let it - and it will take time!
Life wins - One of my favorite times of year is May. Where I live in the mountains there’s still plenty of snow on the ground in May, but there are places where you can go for a hike and see avalanche lilies, or skunk cabbage - two of the earliest signs that the thaw, and warmth, and new life has once again prevailed.
Likewise in humans, I’ve seen the outer crust of pride and pretense melt, seen the attendant blossoming of generosity and charity, of peace and love, of hope and patience, too many times to count. I’ve learned, as Paul had admonished us so long ago, to “regard nobody according to mere outward appearances”!! There’s a seed of life in there, and it will, we pray, eventually blossom in riotous color and unique beauty, and multiply, so that life begats life, and the Giver of Life is glorified. May this be your story. May this be our story. Amen
If you’d like to courageously share the story of a thaw that’s taken place in your life, please let me know. Your sharing becomes someone else’s courage to thaw.