The Small Mercies of Winter

When people come into the office complaining about how terrible the weather is, I’m always tempted to say “Why do you complain about the weather? You can’t by your own will make one hair on your head turn white or black.” It is, in its own way, a pastoral response. But technicalities and modern dyes aside, I hate complaints about the weather. Sorry God didn’t acquiesce to your wishes with this sunrise; what are you going to do, let it ruin your day? I am unsympathetic. I love seasons.

The turning of seasons always makes me a little nostalgic (self-righteous?), and as the days get longer (if not warmer), I don’t mind the longness of winter. It’s been such a flurry of snow and chaos and social activity–from Christmas into the New Year into MLK and Superbowl season, births and funerals and the daily activities around them. There is always so much to do! Sometimes, pastoring requires you to be a professional socialite, flitting from gatherings to fundraisers to dinners. There is always someone to catch up with.

As a millennial who has mastered the art of million-tasking, I love winter for the ability to do one thing at a time. To practice every day the art of looking out of windows at the weather. To have time to read and cook, because look how miserable the weather is. This winter, I’ve grown especially fond of beets and cabbage. I long for asparagus and snap peas and rhubarb, but as spring approaches, I cling to the last of winter, the peacefulness before all my bookshelves fill with rows of tiny tomato seedlings crying out for daily attention.

Winter has been crazy. In less than four months, I’ve made five out-of-state trips and several more in-state trips. In the first blast of winter, I pushed myself not to be deterred by the cold, to go out to every event I could in order to prove I would make it through the winter. Now, I savor these last few excuses to hibernate.

This, I think, is my Lent practice: hibernation. Learning to trust winter’s call to be nothing and go nowhere but where you find yourself. To be content doing one thing at a time. To see the post-awards-show winter as a Sabbath from the need to be constantly entertained and always at every party.

When I moved from Georgia to Illinois, just before last year’s polar vortex, I quickly decided that winter was my favorite season. It calls us to nothing, just being. It’s been rich to ignore that call in the chaos of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the catching-up tasks of January, but as Lent begins, I’m finally ready to listen to winter.


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