Earlier this week we had our first snowfall of the season in central Iowa. When I was a child growing up in South Carolina, I always got excited when we had snow, mostly because it was so infrequent. We were more likely to have ice storms, which aren’t fun at all. But on the rare occasion when we had snow, we were pretty much guaranteed to have a day or two off from school, and my mom stayed home from work and made snow ice cream and a big pot of vegetable soup and managed our goings out and comings in with patience and mugs of hot chocolate with little marshmallows.
As I grew up, my relationship with snow changed. I began to see it less as a wonder to delight in and more as an obstacle to be removed. There were no snow days off from work, even when I was a teacher: the students were excused, but teachers had to report anyway. The publishing company I worked at later continued to produce printed works, whatever the weather.
When our daughter was born and I became a stay-at-home mom, I was excited once again about snow. Watching her play in it, building snowmen and snow cats with her, managing her goings out and comings in with homemade vegetable soup and mugs of hot chocolate were a delight to me. Again, after those rare southern snowstorms, we were pretty much guaranteed a day or two off from school, and the world seemed to slow, at least for us.
Then we moved to Iowa. Out here, snow doesn’t slow anyone down. For schools to declare a snow day, there must be ice (and lots of it) or a blizzard. Sometimes even then, if the powers-that-be determine that buses can run (or at least run on the paved roads), there is school. So after standing hopefully in front of my television’s scrolling list of closings and discovering that, indeed, there would be school, I would bundle up and trudge out in the dark to shovel off the driveway so we could get out and about.
Thanks to a city ordinance, the sidewalks must be cleared within a certain number of hours after a snowfall. And then there’s my frenemy the snowplow guy, who with his elegant sense of timing always seems to rumble down my street just after I’ve finished clearing the driveway, leaving an impenetrable wall of ice and snow that I fiercely attack with my shovel and ice chipper and strong language. Back in our school days, I would return home from picking up my daughter in the afternoons to find a snow and ice barricade that I had to chisel through even to get the car into the driveway.
Yes, my beautiful snow friend became my adversary. My innocent joy and delight at a world whose imperfections seemed blotted out by pure whiteness, whose frantic noise was muted by softly falling and drifting grace, gave over to the need to move that stuff out of the way so normal life could continue. My heart longed for the days when a snowstorm at least slowed down the world, if not stopping it completely, which I understand would bring our local economy to the brink of collapse. I miss experiencing snow as an excited little child.
In Matthew 18:3 (NIV), Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” People had gotten caught up in the legalities of their religion. Jesus simplified the hundreds of rules and regulations to a two-step process: acknowledge our helplessness to overcome our sin on our own and accept his gift of salvation, and get on the road to discipleship. I think we, too, get caught up in legalism, and we need to get back to basics. Little children don’t worry about the rules and regulations of religion; they just love Jesus and want to be with him. Their hearts are big and open, whereas our grown-up ones can be small and tightly closed. For little children, discipleship is finger painting; adults try to make it into particle physics. Discipleship can be difficult, but it isn’t complicated.
How can we become more like children? Actually, I have some ideas about that, which I will share in next Friday’s post. Until then, I’ll pray (and I invite you to join me) that God will allow me to experience life as His little child, that I can get back to basics and not be caught up in unnecessary distractions. And if it snows again between now and then, I promise to go out and play!