Winter reflection: What is really necessary?

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I love winter. Those who know me well have heard me say it often. I love the snow. I love the cold. I love the crisp air and the crunch of frozen ground beneath my feet. I love the sight of snow falling and the sound of wind howling. I love this season that blankets everything in white and reminds us of our limits.

Some would say it is nostalgia. I grew up in rural Minnesota, and winters like this one take me back to my childhood – to drifts piled higher than the car, snow days that piled up faster than the snow itself, and the predictable unpredictability of a climate that can bring life to a standstill.

For me, however, it is more than nostalgia. Certainly my love of winter has roots in the geography of my soul, but it is more than that. I am drawn to the lessons that winters like this one can teach us. I am drawn to what we can learn when the days are short, the wind is strong, the snow is deep, and the air is colder than cold.

Days like those we have recently experienced afford us an opportunity to reflect upon what really is necessary in our lives. Do we really have to “go-go-go” all the time? What can you do when it is too cold to go outside that you otherwise would never consider doing? Of what can you “let go” when the weather reminds you that you really are not in control? And to whom do such days point us in gratitude – those whom we might not even consider if it were not for such seasons that give us pause – those who plow our streets, and haul our garbage, and get the power back on when the ice and cold snuff it out?

And so, yes, I love winter, but there is one more thing. I’m certain that folks wiser than me can give me a sound explanation as to why this is so, an explanation that I would actually like to hear. But I simply enjoy that it is: the stars seem brighter against the backdrop of winter’s night. When the sun sets and the darkness envelops, when the night air wraps everything in its powerful grip, bundle up with coat, hat, gloves, and boots, and venture out, for the night sky is calling. Look up into the candles of the heavens, and you just might find yourself exclaim with the psalmist, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; 4what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?”

What are we, indeed?

God bless your winter days – and nights – for this season bears gifts all its own.

+Pr. Char


Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.