The Wisdom of 50 Below Zero

The Wisdom of 50 Below Zero January 29, 2019

My view today is obscured by frost on my window pane. Frozen air meets a warm house.

Yes, the house is warm. A blessing. Winter in Chicago is a different sort of beast. Typically “differences” in regions are spoken about with articulate, even poetic language.

This week, if there is poetry to be spent on the weather it is the frozen poetry of lament.

Wind chills will force the temperature just outside my frost stained window down towards -50 degrees. There is no description. No one knows how that feels.

We are used to this kind of thing, honestly. We watch the school’s Facebook page, listen for the call from that familiar number, stating that school is canceled.

The offices we work in respect the fact that this weather is not just inclement, it is dangerous.

I remember as a kid in West Virginia, snow days were blessings. We hunkered down, watched the entire Star Wars trilogy, and engaged in ridiculous sledding on the slope running from the main road into our backyard.

I had no idea as a child what I feel now as a parent. When school closes, when activities shut down, when it is dangerous to go outside – everything is up for grabs.

What I’ve learned in the years of following Jesus in the mundane miraculous of humanity is simple.

The most spiritual thing any of us can learn to do is live well when everything is up for grabs.

The job calls and says we are no longer employed, and all of our treasured and trusted sureties disintegrate.

The note left behind says, “I’m leaving because you never listened. Even when I hoped you would.” We wonder then what life will look like when the alarm goes off tomorrow morning. The moment when we will be more alone than we’ve been in a long, long time.

Wisdom When Things Are Up For Grabs

Much of life is learning the flint-like resources for dealing with spiritual snow days. The dangerous environments of bitter relationships and toxic habits force us to understand that all bets are off as to what is normal.

Jesus’ simpler statements like “Abide in me, and I in you” (John 15:5) come close to us on these days. The presence of Jesus is consistent, even when our routines and expectations are not. The practices of being “with” – practices like contemplative prayer, silence, fasting, and Sabbath – open us up to strength for times when all everything is up for grabs.

The point of discipleship has never been duty, but delight. Following Jesus is about finding the wisdom that we need when we face the icy depths; the cold chill of perceived despair.

Tomorrow will be between -45 and -50 degrees. The difference between the two is like the difference between 10 million and 10 billion dollars: at some point it’s just an extra digit.

Into that space where routines are suspended and bunkers are built, there is a sense of presence. There’s a wisdom that lives completely and fully when we cannot depend on our routines to determine our meaning, purpose, and identity.

When everything is up for grabs, hunkered inside with little other than the presence of Jesus, that’s when our education about what is wise truly begins.

(Photo by oldskool photography on Unsplash)

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