The snowfall has been record-breaking this year, from the traffic-stopping trauma that fell upon Atlanta to this most recent snowstorm that passed through the Northeast. We have looked to the signs of Punxsutawney Phil, and he has told us that winter would continue on for just a little more.
There is something purifying (and maddening) about contending with the weather. Snow Days shuffle school days that affect summer vacations, delaying or deferring them to other times of the year. Important parent meetings are moved around and so the much-needed sense of accountability to adults and progress of students also gets frustrated. In the church where I work, the weather keeps interfering with preparations for sacraments as well as plans for the upcoming Lenten season.
In some cases, even the most basic rituals of a weekend Mass or an evening dinner are upset. Everyone is on some kind of emergency alert. And we live somewhere in between being first responders and people who are sheltering in place.
Pope Francis was recently quoted as saying, "God forgives all the time. Humans can forgive some of the time. But Mother Nature never forgives." By that, he meant a nod to the environmental concerns Catholics and others have (or should have) for the planet. Upsetting the balance is nowhere near as easy a problem to overcome simply through a recourse to forgiveness and mercy.
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On this most recent snow day, my daughter and I were up on the hill near her school with a bunch of her friends and parents. I did not realize until a little later that she had forgotten to bring a hat and that her gloves were already thoroughly wet. Although she had a hood on her jacket and I gave her explicit instructions to keep it over her head, it was messing her hair up and making it difficult for her to see.
Predictably, she decided to not wear her hood zipped-up and about 45 minutes later she was starting to feel cold and miserable. I suggested we go back to the nearby parking lot to warm up in the car. This sounded perfectly reasonable and very desirable to me. But she became literally frozen midway between the summit and the base. She didn't want to leave her friends. But she was uncomfortable where she was. She was being offered aide, but she couldn't move herself to accept it. All she could do was cry.
Luckily, some loud commanding words were dispatched both to her to move and to her friends that she'd be back. Her frail and frozen frame came down off the mountain into the recuperative shelter of the car. After she had warmed up a little and stopped crying, her sanity was restored and we were friends again.
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Snow is both beautiful and terrible. Decorative on a tree, but capable of toppling it onto a rooftop or powerline. It reflects the sun during the day to help spread the warmth, but that same melt and run-off can become black ice later in the evening. Perhaps more amazing is the human being: an admixture of reasonableness and desire, of Holy Spirit and unrequited complaint.
St. Paul said it best when he described his condition of doing what I know I should not do and wanting what I should not want (Romans 7:19) As we approach Lent, unlike Punxsutawney Phil, we do not ask, "Is this all there is or just a little more?" when we contemplate our shadow. Instead, we look directly into the depth of our own humanity and ask why am I so unforgiving for the life that I insist upon having for myself?
I am glad that I had the words and the means to rescue my daughter from her torment in the storm. But I also know that I often do not hear the word of God in my own life and find myself out in the elements ill equipped for the day.
Have you been prepared for these snowy days? Has God surprised you through this upset?
Copyright 2014 Jay Cuasay
About the Author
Jay Cuasay is a freelance writer on religion, interfaith relations, and culture. A post-Vatican II Catholic father with a Jewish spouse, he is deeply influenced by Christian mysticism and Zen Buddhism. He was a regular columnist on Catholicism for examiner.com and a moderator and contributor to several groups on LinkedIn. His LTEs on film and Jewish Catholic relations have been published in America and Commonweal. Jay ministered to English and Spanish families at a Franciscan parish for 13 years. He can be reached at TribePlatypus.com.