Our weekend was particularly chaotic and emotionally heavy, passing by in a blur of too much sad news, run-down bodies plagued by winter’s endless viruses and cars stuck in the driveway when we needed to be on to the next thing. By the time Sunday night arrived, neither Andy or I were surprised that we literally couldn’t see the stretch of highway that would lead us home, the only place we wanted to be. Completely snow-covered and made worse by the continual falling of the same, the road was invisible. We drove blindly along, kept in line only by the scattered road signs that flashed in our headlights. Our hearts, similarly lost, searched silently within themselves for some steadying assurance.
I went to bed pleading for renewal but doubting it would come.
My first thought, come morning, was that I could breathe. I was strangely relieved and counted it as a mercy. As a form of soul-medicine, Andy suggested that all members of the Schmidt household not leave the boundary lines of the property for the entirety of the day. Eagerly, I obliged and, in fact, never got around to making the beds and ate artichoke dip for lunch.
Late afternoon, we went for a long snowshoe on the back side of our acreage. I felt light, floating across the snow like a sigh. It was the lightest I’ve felt in weeks; I rejoiced. So often, I falter under the weight of my humanness, my stubborn skin like a lead jacket over my immortal soul and its longing to meditate on holiness and perfect love. It takes precious little for me to suffer under the reality of my brokenness, my pockets filled with the rocks of sadness, worry or fatigue. My bones are a jail and, though the cell door stands wide open, I am often guilty of failing to see the obvious way out or, worse yet, willfully choosing to stay imprisoned.
But, in this moment, my feet strapped by thin strips of leather to my snowshoes, I was so light even the snowflakes bore my weight. I bid my heart follow my body and it did, best it could.
Under the snow that had fallen, all the spruce and pine resembled old men dressed in sweaters of hand-spun, un-dyed wool. They were remarkable in their wisdom and Andy, who wisely knows to long for wisdom, remarked that he hoped he would one day appear the same.
I, too, longed to be like them. In all the ways I am not, they are unshakable in their willingness to bear the burden of winter, to wait patiently and silently for spring and the promise of renewal.
Sparrow, sweet thing, wrote later that the trees greeted her like soldiers. Friendly ones, she assured me. Ones that fight for what is good.
Sparrow had a few epic and hilarious falls along the way. Our laughter joined the persistent twitter of the pileated woodpecker that seemed always just above us but never within in sight. And, near the end, the haven of our house within view, we all flopped back into a small clearing to make awkward, snowshoed snow angels.
Inside, standing over the stove stirring milk for cocoa, the breathing came even easier than it had when I’d first woke. Mercy given to the unworthy yet again.
There was still the heavy news I’d learned over the weekend and the shrewd promise of more to come. There was still the obligations of the week ahead, the pins that I’m always setting up just so I can knock them down. There was still the colds we are getting over and and the stomach flu and sinus infections and body aches that everyone else seems to be plagued with and threatening to give away. And that is just the reality of my small life. There are wars and rumors of wars. Desolation and loneliness, depravity and suffering the likes of which I’ve never known and cannot begin to understand.
If I let myself dwell on it too long, I am defeated before I even declare myself a warrior in the fight for redemption and joy despite circumstance.
It’s too much, isn’t it? My heart and I may have floated for a moment with snowshoes, but let’s face it, that’s a metaphor that doesn’t seem to hold up most of the time. This life, this world and the curse it’s held under, is Philistine in enormity and just as skillful in its war tactics. All of us, weary from days spent wandering the desert of real life can scarcely muster the energy to believe the victory we’re promised.
That night, when all the rooms were quiet and all the objects in our house idle, I turned off all the lights except the string of Christmas lights above the windows. In the dimness of this soft light, the furniture and books, the table Andy made and the unlit oil lamp on it, the unswept floor and the shelf of Sparrow’s toys, all seemed to flatten and fade into their own background. These objects that make up my every day all but disappeared and I sat, alone and at peace in an empty room that asked only one thing of me: just be here.
I know sad news and physical ailments, cars stuck in the ditch and the overwhelming obligations of work, wars and famine are not the same as the over-stuffed green chair in the corner of my living room. But in a way, they are. If we can manage to turn off all the lights we are tempted to see by, all the suns and burning lamps that are not the true Light, the one radiating from the Risen King, I believe what we do not need will begin to fade away. Not that the hardships will go away, but that we will fail to see the aspects of them that cause us to fret, fear and worry. I believe if we see only via His light, our eyes will behold what truly matters, the Truth that is worth mediating on, the battle that is worth giving our precious energies to.
This, of course, is not something I’m that great at. If it were as easy as flicking a light switch in the rooms of my heart, sure. But it’s not. I’ve trained myself to see by the light of some pretty hideous and garish sources. And they’re so pervasive and permanent, I’m positive I don’t recognize most of them for what they are. But, oh, to see only by the pure Light of purity Itself.
Have you ever noticed that everyone looks lovely in candle light? Take that same person (myself included!) and put them under the fluorescent lighting of a public restroom, and the picture isn’t quite as lovely. The world too, in the soft glow of sunset looks serene and sometimes so achingly beautiful it seems it can’t possibly be real. This, in my mind, is what the Light of Christ does for a scene. Beauty is never more fully manifested than it is in this Light.
How, then, do we do it? How do we train ourselves to see only by His light? I’m afraid I don’t entirely know the answer. But I do know that I want to learn and practice. Let’s ask Him how to do it. Let’s encourage one another, keeping each other accountable by naming the false light we see and recognizing when True light is shining. And when we’ve found it, let’s linger there, memorizing it, writing it in song and lyric on the tablets of our hearts so that we will not forget.
So that when the darkness of the world’s light is all we think there is, we will remember the words of the song we long to sing.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:7