Sunday, April 13, 2014

A walk in the snow

I went for a walk in the gently falling snow.  Light, spitting, “popcorn” snow we call it.  The larger pieces which don’t melt on contact with the ground crunch lightly under my boots before succumbing to the residual warmth as it was after all in the mid 20s (or 70s if you have not caught up with the modern world) only yesterday.

There is a beautiful stillness in the snow.  If we get the 3-6 inches forecasted, then noise gets soaked up as though the snow were a sponge.  As I put on my boots, wishing rather than suburban footpath they could find their way over dirt paths and dead leaves that struggle vainly to hold back the new growth of spring.  To walk among trees smelling the fresh smell of moist undergrowth and soil that is pure oxygen to the lungs of a farm boy. 

And I realized the best I could do without driving somewhere was a small covenant community within our sub-division. It doesn’t really belong in our ticky-tacky box neighborhood with the cedar shingles and some less than pleasing architecture, but they were wise enough to put mini green belts with walking paths throughout.
I thought about a lot of things as I walked.  I thought about Palm Sunday a few years back – wondering if it was wrong that the words of a song by Pink resonated in my mind as I was driving to the service.  In my mind, it was fine – it resonated in me that morning as perhaps a soliloquy of Jesus in the later part of the Passion Week.

No I don't believe you
When you say don't come around here no more
I won't remind you
You said we wouldn't be apart
No, I don't believe you
When you say you don't need me anymore
So don't pretend
To not love me at all

It felt good, walking in the snow.  Like walking in the rain, but cold and dry.  I so wanted to be somewhere other – the woodland I yearned for earlier.  I closed my eyes, hoping desperately perhaps that when I opened them like the transformation in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe I would find myself in that different place.  Didn’t work.  But I heard the birds more clearly.  I sat for a while on a bench and watched some ducks in a small pond.  The water levels are down – spring cleaning in progress I think and with all the decaying leaves and mud, there was that familiar, not unpleasant odor of rotting vegetation.  The ducks seemed to quite like whatever they were digging out of it – weird huh.  I started to wonder why it was I yearning for an even greater absence of people.  And I guess in short, the answer was, people are messy.  I mean, when everything is going great, they are a lot of fun, but sometimes…
A friend of mine shared publically her struggles with the church and Christianity this week.  You can go all over the place with the issues she raises, our failings (and there are many) to reflect the nature of the person whose name we claim, how she feels, how she is responding, how we should respond.  But at the end of the day, perhaps only one thing really matters…
And there is a deep and oozing wound in my soul. 
It really sucks that she feels this way, so much so she feels she does not want to be labeled as a christian.  And it’s really hard when you see her try to not be judgmental even though she is constantly judged and condemned; try to love unconditionally and people are hateful and spiteful in return.  Because against all natural understanding, you know God loves those same people that make her feel this way.  Some days I struggle with that.  Some days, I am judgmental and hateful.  Nobody’s perfect.  People are messy…

You think on Palm Sunday Jesus didn't know that?

The snow was coming down harder now. Perhaps we will get that 3-6 inches. I hope so. Our dry soil in this semi-arid high mountain desert can use it all. Perhaps I’ll come out again later and trudge through the snow, enjoying the stillness and silence.

For a good part of the walk, I followed the path.  I don’t know why - because it was there, because I’m never really sure if the homeowners in this neighborhood really like nonresidents wandering through their little strip of nature.  Perhaps because we feel safe on the path?  Perhaps because we are not sure if we trust people who don’t follow the path?  I stepped off the path and found different ways.  It felt so good, the grass and rocks of formed watercourses beneath my feet.  I closed my eyes again and this time, I was almost there, in that other place, the bush around the farm I grew up on, the wilderness of West Virginia, even the wide open spaces of the southwest where trees are scarce, but sage and other vegetation that hugs the dry soils of the desert is still abundant.  Where you can walk for miles without any sign of another human being.
I didn’t go to church this Palm Sunday.  I took a different path.  I went for a walk in the gently falling snow… and God was there.