We finally got snow--the wonderful kind where you forget your 40-something life with its demands and obligations and responsibilities. The kind that invites the most reluctant hearted grown-up to release propriety, to get out there and romp around a bit. The kind that reminds us what it is to play.
It was that kind of snow day.
We got out the sleds and spun ourselves around in the deserted street outside our home. Proper parents that we are, we laughed like kids, joining in the delight of our children. And I found much to my surprise that with enough layers even bitter cold doesn't have to be bitter. Especially when it is filled with joy. Warmth spreads all around, never melting the fun.
For me it was a true day of rest. Sabbath. I relaxed into its easy rhythm, a bit uncomfortable because I quietly fretted that there was perhaps work needing to be done after all. But really there never was. At the end of the day I settled my self into the arms of my husband, sharing a smile, relaxing into that hug as if it was okay to just enjoy the gift we'd been given.
This soul season has been a bit like our little break from the ordinary grind, well, minus the romping. The way a serious snow blankets our southern town with immobility, this season has settled on me as well. In our house we have battled incessant coughing and viral infections like everyone else. And my own sinuses have kept my senses fogged. In the weariness of getting everyone well and just keeping up with meals and basketball games and school assignments, it has become too much to try to keep up my own creative endeavors. I've gone quiet on the inside, rolling through each day, attending to needs around and within me. The whole time relinquishing the striving, driving spirit that must get something useful and purposeful and important done. Relinquishing the need to prove my life has significance beyond itself. Relinquishing so I can just be quiet, for a change.
As my heart has quieted my writing has as well.
I've been listening. Leaning my inner ear close to the ground of my own being. Getting familiar with my own dustiness. Seeing how my own feet are made of clay after all.
I have wrestled for the past three years with identity issues. God moved me from full time ministry and planted me squarely at home, without title, position, or matching salary. I've struggled to know my place and my purpose. I've struggled to know that I'm still the same person when there is nothing on the outside of me that points to who I thought I was on the inside.
I've wondered at this long stretch of time, of emptiness and quiet. And then the last few months of an even deeper stillness, where the emptiness around me seemed to seep into me. I've wondered. And watched. And waited. And listened.
And while situated in this very personal empty space, the snow began to fall, blanketing my outside world as deeply as my inside one.
Snow and ice are great levelers. No matter what human you are, you are at its mercy. For a day or two, all of us in the whole region were rendered still by impassable streets and biting temperatures and hard-packed layers of cold.
This stillness has the power to reveal, to show us to ourselves in a way nothing else can.
In my stillness this is what I heard--
I'm still the same me I always ever was. I've been shaped and formed and named and claimed by all my experiences, and even when circumstances change, those markings still remain on my soul. I look at the world the same way; I interpret life the same way; I move in concert with the Holy Spirit the same way; and God is as present in my life as ever I knew God to be. And through this time when all the outward trappings of success and identity and accomplishment have been stripped away, I find that I am more.
In the silence, in the stillness--I have discovered that I never really lost anything at all.
In fact, the outward trappings became my captivity. I believed in myself simply because I had outward evidence to prove I was worth believing in. My belief in my own worth never had any real foundation in reality as long as I believed it came from circumstances outside of me.
So God set this captive free.
By taking away the very things I had built my sense of self upon.
And in the piercing silence, the quiet stillness, I have seen my true self. The self I always have been. Alive, vibrant, radiant with the splendor of a child of the Living God. And in the quiet stillness I have heard God's simple question: "Who are you going to believe, them or Me?"