One of the most important books I own is called Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer. It is a book about vocation, calling, and our adoption as children of God. It is a little book that in its few short pages affirms that God claims us, each of us, in profound and ardent ways. I have given it away countless times and recommended it even more. In the final section of the book, called There is a Season which is about how all phases of life inform who we are and who we are becoming, Palmer writes about winter: “Winter is a season when death’s victory can seem supreme: few creatures stir, plants do not visibly grow, and nature feels like our enemy. And yet the rigors of winter, like the diminishments of autumn, are accompanied by amazing gifts. One gift is beauty: I am not sure that any sight or sound on earth is as exquisite as the hushed descent of a sky full of snow. Another gift is the reminder that times of dormancy and deep rest are essential to all living things. Despite all appearances, of course, nature is not dead in winter – it has gone underground to renew itself and prepare for spring. Winter is a time when we are admonished, and even inclined, to do the same for ourselves. Winter has an even greater gift to give. It comes when the sky is clear, the sun is brilliant, the trees are bare, and first snow is yet to come. It is the gift of utter clarity. In winter, one can walk into woods that had been opaque with summer growth only a few months earlier and see the trees clearly, singly and together, and see the ground they are rooted in.”
I love this insight. It is a reminder that none of us suffers from too much clarity. None of us can be reminded too often that deep rest is necessary to our health as families, communities, churches, or individuals. We cannot be reminded too often that the pieces of renewal have not abandoned us so much as they have gone into dormancy. Could it be that prayer and worship are like riding a bike: that even though we may fall out of practice from time to time, we never really forget the operation of the vehicle, or the enterprise of the exercise itself?
If you’ll allow it, this renewal of the exercise is why events like our Winter Retreat are important (coming up on February 10 – 12). It is why worship like Confirmation Sunday is enriching to our entire congregation, not only those directly involved. It is why coming together as sisters and brothers in faith, as we can this Sunday Night, January 29 (Caring Conversations, 7 PM in Davidson Chapel), to talk and pray about grief and loss is necessary. We retreat, worship, and pray together and, as we do, the woods are not so thick, the winter not so cold, and clarity comes as we see the intertwined forests of faith and life as they really are: rooted deeply by a God who even gives gifts in the winters of our lives.