Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my plans than your plans. – Isaiah 55:9 (CEB)
Last year in Tired, I wrote about being tired of the cold. While our family had a great summer, it wasn’t a hot summer. And while fall was beautiful, I wasn’t ready for winter. To be honest, I came to this winter already tired.
But winter still came as it does every year. The bitter cold began in November and the forecast was for another cold winter. And cold it was. Last year we had the polar vortex, but at least it was sunny; this year, no polar vortex but also much less sun. I expected this to be a very challenging winter for me.
But it wasn’t as bad as I expected.
Just as the rain and the snow come down from the sky and don’t return there without watering the earth, making it conceive and yield plants and providing seed to the sower and food to the eater, so is my word that comes from my mouth; it does not return to me empty. Instead, it does what I want, and accomplishes what I intend. – Isaiah 55:10-11 (CEB)
When the snow came, I was thankful because it was beautiful. When the temperatures were well below zero, I was thankful because I had a warm coat and boots – and a reliable car. When the wind raged and made it even colder, I was thankful because I had a warm and safe house.
I think this winter was different because I have been serving at Divine Intervention. This winter, I have spent time with real people who would otherwise forced to be out in the cold. I know their names, and I know part of their stories. I became more tolerant of the extreme weather. And I was thankful for things like my car and my house and warm clothes and a safe place to be.
Even though I was cold and wanted to see the sun like everyone else in Wisconsin, my thoughts would quickly go to the guests at Divine Intervention – and others who were living outside. My family was also involved in serving dinner at Divine Intervention – and on one day when there was no school, we spent a morning making scones and cookies and playing games until the warming room closed at noon. At night when we would pray, one of us would lift up the guests at Divine Intervention, those living outside and/or people who needed to work outside at night even in the extreme cold.
I don’t think my relationship with this winter is simply the result of just being thankful for what I have. And I don’t think it’s simply about recognizing that others are in need – and even in danger – during these cold months. I hesitate to say it’s solidarity with those who have no choice but to be outside in the winter because I can always put on my warm coat, get in my warm car and drive to my warm house when I leave Divine Intervention.
”For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.” – Mark 14:7 (NRSV, emphasis mine)
I think the difference was this “with” Jesus talked about. I don’t think Jesus was saying that poor people would always just exist in the world. It isn’t us and them. It’s only us – because Jesus called us to be with. And being with this winter has changed me.