It’s not the first snow of the winter, but it is the first snow of the year.
A thin blanket for a cold, cold beginning. There is something sad about it – is it the gray clouds which even now hover over the new-made world? The occasional gust of the wind, making the lonely chime sound its solitary note of cheer? Maybe it is the slight wish that this present had come not so close to Christmas, not so close to a time when presents are so plentiful.
I am off today. Off because of the snow. Yesterday was my first day back, and today is, now, another day off. I will enjoy today, but I will feel a bit guilty about it. I think this sums up my relationship with joy fairly well. If there really were a cosmic balance, a giant scale by which happiness and misery were dolled out, what would I have in store for me but misery, in this life front-heavy with blessings? Misfortunes have been like lemons in a pie. How sweet, still, the sum of the parts!
2017 has been a well balanced, wholesome year. Less pie and more biscotti with whole wheat. The theme has been, sometimes too overtly, community. This was the literal theme for my church’s women’s committee (“living in the light of community“). And the inferred dream of all the up and coming adults in the area. Two different bible studies were started this year, each at a different church. Each by different personalities, with different life experiences. Yet each established with the desire to build relationships with more people, and to build more people’s relationships with God. In the midst of all this, the Geekette established a new weekly tradition: dinner, Stargate, and excellent conversation. All theses things have been a peculiar kind of blessing for me. A direct answer to a prayer I made in 2015.
Answered prayer is kind of like a fulfilled wishlist at Christmas. You look at your new treasures and wonder “Now what do I do with you?” Often, I think, when we ask for things – spiritual or otherwise – we only imagine having or receiving and we fail to fully think about using or living with. And this has been my experience with community this year. In bible studies, home, and at my church, I have suddenly found myself in that net of relationships that extends far under the surface of every group, like tree roots. Or mushrooms. And now that I am finding myself a part of it, I wonder what I’m supposed to do. What does a root do? It gathers what is necessary to grow and nourish the tree. Not by creeping up to the surface – which is rather my instinct, to find the light and be visible, to be the tree – but by functioning where it is placed, whether that’s rich or poor, loam or sand or clay.
Or, to summarize, though this year has been the year of community, the lesson I think I’m supposed to learn from it is the same lesson I have always resisted learning. Be still and wait.
Though the same, in looking back, I seem to see a nuance to this message which I have never noticed before. Or, perhaps, noticed only by its absence. The root does not wait, inactive, but rather waits through action. Its stillness is the quietness of living, content, not the motionlessness of death. And the waiting is not an impatient desire. An hourly frustrated expectation. The root, in its slow absorption of water and nutrients, experiences the tree’s future second by second. The waiting is not for something to happen, but for what is happening to continue. The stillness is not in defeat, but in complete assurance that victory is present even here. Even now. Does the root have a certain point to which it desires the tree to grow? And does it chafe and fret if the tree grows slanted, towards the sun, or twisted in the wind, or thicker than its estimated girth? To wait is to live not just in expectation but in the daily fulfillment of that expectation. It is not a hope based on the whim of wishing, but one proved each day. Best seen in hind-sight, of course, but still there to be seen if one looks. To be still and wait is to look for God and to see Him, and to live looking and seeing.
I’m hoping that 2018 will teach me about friendship; about reciprocity, and thinking of others and thoughtfulness in general. But if the lessons on being still and waiting are to continue I would not mind either. What once I considered boring I begin to find enticing. The meekness that once seemed incapable I now suspect is the most confident of all. If I could be still, in living; if I could wait, in the midst of achieving; if I could thread each day through the weft of God’s promises, instead of tossing them away like stray ends, or storing them up against some coming time – what need would I for pie to make life’s lemons sweet to me?