Saturday, April 14, 2012

Shoveling the Drive of my Soul

     A strange winter blanketed Traverse City, Michigan this year.

     It didn't snow much; for a town that relies on tourist dollars, no snow news is bad news for snowmobilers and skiers. Personally, I wasn't terribly disappointed - I think I shoveled my drive three times.  But my kids wanted to sled, to build snowmen and make snow angels and fight from snow forts, to have a reason to come inside shivering and miserable and drink too much hot chocolate made with real milk and chocolate syrup.  They wanted a winter that froze their bones, with snow that glistened in the sun, hung on the trees, and buried us in our drive for five or six school days.

   But it hasn't been that kind of winter.

    This spring has been equally odd. In early March, we hit a stretch of eighty degree days, shattering all kinds of records. Confused trees budded; lost ducks returned too quickly; allergies wreaked havoc six weeks early. That was right after the worst snow storm I remember since moving here 15 years ago. We got 30 inches in about 24 hours at my house: heavy, blustery snow that snapped trees and power lines, ushered in states of emergency, and immobilized two minivans in my driveway for a couple days.
     Now we are back to normal, but the grass, flowers, and cherry trees don't know they aren't supposed to be out and about yet, and the frost is taking its toll on their cheery buds. We wanted a spring that gently and beautifully eased us from the snowpocalypse into the ordinary Jimmy Buffet summers of Traverse City  We wanted to shop at Menards, foolishly buying flowers in the heat of the moment that we could actually plant, not move inside every night for four more weeks.

  But it hasn't been that kind of spring.

  My life has had some Traverse City winters.

     I didn't like them; I wanted them to be real winters too. I don't like to grieve a little bit, or be slightly depressed, or just a little disappointed.  If I have to experience a spiritual or emotional winter, I want both barrels so it's worth my time.
     It's one thing to feel kind of down and just mope through the day; it's quite another to curl up on the sofa with an appetizer sampler platter from a local restaurant and bury my depression in The Road and deep-fried anything.  Now that's an emotional winter.  That's what I prefer - not because I like it, but because I can wrap my mind around the problem.  I want to shovel the drive of my soul until my back aches.
     I know I can't get around it, but I don't like just vaguely miss my Dad after watching We Bought A Zoo! That's like having a low-grade inflammation that makes me just queasy enough to feel slightly out of sorts.  I want The Road; I want my loss to hit me like a hammer, to lay me low, to MATTER. I want life to stop as my emotions get snowed in by a blizzard of grief, burying my happiness, snapping my schedule in a way that might take days to fix. I want a really good excuse for hot chocolate.

   That kind of winter.

    My life has had some Traverse City springs. 

    In my heart and soul, I want lilacs and beautiful flowering weeds to slowly and steadily push through last fall's unraked dead leaves and this winter's lingering piles of dirty snow so these persistent annuals can bring their beauty to my soul's decrepit yard.
     I want the hibernating couch potato side of me to overdo my first relational spring hike with my wife.  I want to rake my heart's yard not because I have to, but because the promise of summer love compels me.
     When it comes to spiritual spring, I want to see my character explode, my relationships blossom, my career be full of new momentum and life.
 But that's now how life often works.  

     Winters both spiritual and physical have corroded my soul. They eat slowly away at me, not cold enough to freeze me or brutal enough to move me.  They just...fester.  Nothing is strong enough to break or shut down anything, so I never pay attention like I should.  But there is also nothing to skate, sled, or ski on either. It's a season where nothing has to be ventured, and nothing is gained. It is Laodicean Winter.

   Springs both spiritual and physical tempt me with the promise of renewal, then turn on a moment's notice and freeze the new life that began.  Habits are gone! Until they emerge as methodically as ever.  God is close! Until He's distant. My ADD is contained! Until my brain freezes for a day and leaves my angry, desperate, and isolated. I finally know how to parent! Until I ignore my kids, and snap at them before the coffee kicks in in the morning, and we ride in silence to school.

That's how winter and spring usually work. 

     Ending this post on a really positive note doesn't seem honest.  I believe God honors honesty, and He knows my heart.  He made winter and summer; He knows what it means to be cold and lifeless, as well as to have warmth and hope. He knows I  sometimes don't know why I am unexpectedly cold, surprisingly hopeless, or oddly surprised by tenderness and love.

     He knows how He intended winter and spring to be in the world He first made. He know how they actually are now.

     He also know what summer is for, and that I'm waiting for the warmth of the Son.