It’s another snowy day in New Hampshire. We’ve had a lot of these days this winter. And lots of unusually cold air to go with them. I am going through my wood pile that I use to supplement my central heat really fast. I will probably run out of wood before I run out of winter.
Even so, I love winter. Here, it is beautiful and exciting and challenging. I get a forecast of when the wintry weather is coming, about how much is coming, what form it will come in, how long it will last. Usually, the local forecasts are fairly reliable, and I can plan ahead for the inconveniences the snow causes. I have tools and a plan to take care of the demands. Not like a tornado or an earthquake. No dashing for shelter in a split second of panic. No unexpected moments of terror when the walls and floor start to shake and roll.
The snow and cold are inconvenient, though. Occasionally, I am unable to make it to church services because I can’t get out of my driveway. The mere decision to walk out my door requires five minutes of donning layers of coat, hat, scarf, gloves and boots. Clearing snow, even with the best of machines, is time consuming and energy draining. And, there are always places that have to be shoveled because I can’t reach them with the snow blower. Even when the storm is over, going anywhere requires more time because of potential hazards on the roads.
The bane of winter is ice, especially when it is two inches thick on my driveway. Or falling from the sky as sleet. Or freezing on contact when it falls as rain on a sub-freezing day. Chopping ice is my least favorite winter activity. It is hard work, and it is sometimes very dissatisfying work. I could order a load of sand-salt mix and have it spread on my driveway to make quicker work of eliminating the ice. One time my neighbor offered to share the sand-salt mix he had picked up from our town supply, but I declined. Once the ice melts, the mess of the sand is left behind. I’d rather chop.
Recently, when I was chopping ice on my driveway, I thought of how my heart can become encased in metaphorical ‘ice’ so that I can’t feel or hurt, and how the process of chopping away the ice on my driveway compares to the heavy work of chopping ‘ice’ away from my heart. Ice on my driveway becomes laminated after a few days of thawing and freezing. Laminated ice is difficult to remove becomes is comes off in layers. Snow that has been rained on and then freezes or slush that refreezes become the toughest ice to remove. Sometimes my handy chopper will glance off of the uneven surface. It seems like something so solid should crack like glass when struck with a heavy metal edge, but it often doesn’t.
Life is full of cold winter days–days of heartache, days of unearned pain, days of injustice, days of loss. I cannot escape them, but enduring them is often incomprehensible. So, I cover my heart with the nearest available insulator, the ice of indifference. I tell myself, “If I don’t care, then I won’t hurt.” Or, the ice of distraction–if I don’t think about it, then I won’t hurt. Or the ice of blame where my suffering is the the fault of someone else, anyone else, and I place all of my hurt at their doorstep, as if doing so makes a difference in how much I hurt.
“I am weary with my sighing; Every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears. My eye has wasted away with grief; It has become old because of all my adversaries.” Psalm 6:6, 7
Each layer of ice I apply to my heart to insulate me from my hurts adds only burden to the one tool I have for surviving my suffering. Every attempt I make to keep from feeling my hurts constricts my heart from its normal function. It is only a healthy heart which can save me from myself and all of my hurt. If I feel and endure, my heart becomes stronger, more agile, better equipped to deal with living in a fallen world. I must use my heart to process my hurts and put them in their proper, Godly perspective to be able to thrive beyond my hurts.
Feel and endure, a messy situation, illogical at times, beyond my control at other times. I don’t like this process.
“Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Psalm 55:22
The ice on my driveway that is easiest to chop is the ice on top of asphalt that has been warmed with sunlight. Any exposed asphalt absorbs the radiant energy of the sun and warms up even under the ice. The ice sitting on the asphalt begins to melt underneath while what is on top may stay frozen solid. Even if what is on top refreezes, that process of refreezing for the underneath melting ice takes longer because the asphalt stores unused heat and the ice on top insulates the bottom layer from more cold. The ice is loosened from the pavement, and, when I chop, it comes apart in large, satisfying chunks.
“The foolishness of man ruins his way, And his heart rages against the Lord.” Proverbs 19:3
And so I think about my heart. About the events in life that create an atmosphere where it can easily freeze over. About the many kinds of hurt that cause me to add layer after layer of ice to my heart to protect it. About my sometimes defiant attitudes which only add more layers of ice. Then I think of Jesus and the sunshine His love for me brings, the warmth that my frigid and dying heart soaks up like black asphalt. I think about His word, how I may use it to chop at ice from the surface, breaking away layers of indifference, distraction and blame. I remember that my repentance of my arrogant and selfish ways is the only thing that will obliterate the hardest ice.
When my heart breaks free from the layers of ice, it relaxes. The tension is gone. It beats to the rhythm of God’s eternal grace. It feels God’s warmth easily. It beats freely in the light of renewal, strengthening itself with each exercise of muscle. My heart fills with God’s love and grace. I am at peace with God and at peace with myself.
“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:12, 13
All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan
NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.