Friday, January 7, 2011

Snow (Shelter)

Humans are funny individuals. We get life handed to us as a free gift, and in turn we offer God our love, which results in obedience. And then when He continues to shape our life— the life He gave us to begin with— we so often complain that it wasn't the way we thought it would be. A few weeks ago, with a sort of bitter smile (realizing exactly how childish it was even as I said it), I told God “when You called me to love people, this wasn't exactly what I had in mind.”

I went to Colorado to visit some of my dearest friends over my break from work. I was with my older brother and younger sister, as I usually am. We drove the 16 hours in a single day, which was an adventure in itself. We spent a lot of time in Northwest Texas, which is a very empty place. It's all straight lines and sky and silence. I had no idea what I was looking for out there, but I knew I was looking for something.

I was staying with one of the CP mentors, Mangy. Her house has become one of my favorite places in the world. I feel incredibly safe there, which is an unusual feeling. I felt like I was riding in on the wings of a storm. I was afraid of bringing darkness with me to settle into that house, but I'm really not sure I am big enough to cast a shadow over that place.

It was hard to get used to being there. It's hard every time, because I can never quite believe that I am lucky enough to be with friends, but this time it was hard in a different way. It highlighted for me exactly how isolated I had been, exactly how unhealthy some of my thinking was, and the fact that it had mostly been my choice. I had kind of forgotten that I had friends, and that they wanted to talk to me and interact with me. It was a little overwhelming to be reminded, but in a sense I think that's why I was going in the first place— to remember.

I have been fighting this idea of friendship, of community, of the kind of sacrificial love that I have talked about so often without ever understanding. One thing I have had to learn is that yes, sometimes touching other people hurts... but some things were meant to hurt, and some hurts are worth it.

As a necessary sidenote: this does not mean that we are supposed to dive headfirst into destructive relationships. I've tried that, and it's nowhere near as heroic as it sounds. The point I am trying to make is that those relationships that are destructive, or even those that are simply hard to maintain, do not invalidate the value of community.

I have a tendency to drag things around that I was never meant to pick up in the first place. One of the times when this hit home for me was when I was gathered with a lot of my friends for what we call a mini moot. I ended up going off on my own to sit in a dark room with my iPod for a while. This is the kind of thing I did all the time when I was younger, but I hadn't done that in years. I thought I had outgrown it, learned to look past myself more than that. Apparently not. Sometimes, if only for a few minutes, I am 16 again, because that is who I choose to be. Slightly sobering.

On Thursday, it snowed. Not the light, slow, melting snow we get every few years in Texas. It started snowing, and soon it was more like a storm. It was fascinating to see the cold feathers falling thick, clustering over trees and cars and sidewalks. Only minutes were necessary for it to stick, unlike the several hours needed in Texas. I decided I wanted to walk in it, since it is an opportunity I rarely have. So I bundled up in more layers than I've ever had on in my life and set off, singing.

I walked to areas I hadn't been to before. I reached a major street that was sloped (like most of the streets in the Springs are). More and more cars were stalling out or sliding into each other. There were about 20 cars stuck there in one big barricade as the snow continued to fall. I walked past small knots of people talking loud on cell phones. As I pressed on, I reached up to push my hair out of my eyes and found that it was frozen solid.

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I had a lot of time for thinking, out in the snow by myself. One of the things I was realizing for the first time is that snow is more than I had thought it was. Before I have associated snow with innocence, joy, and beauty. When it comes to us in Texas, it feels that way. But here I saw what it is like when the snow freezes to ice and sends cars sliding away from firm ground. I felt the piercing cold of relentless wind and snow on my forehead and fingers, and thought about people who wouldn't have a warm place to go home to.

And it started to occur to me that sometimes the most beautiful things are also the most dangerous. Yes, snow is beautiful and somehow makes me hopeful of things washed white, but it is a great risk to even try to go out in it. Admiring it from a distance is the only way to stay safe... but then you don't see the way the snowflakes sit in their almost perfect complexity on your skin before burning away. You don't feel the touch on your face or hear it under your shoes.

It brings to mind a hike we took back in August. When standing on a rough rock precipice overlooking a spectacular view, I asked my friend Justin if the view was more beautiful or more terrifying. He responded that it was both. I added that all the best things are. The thought has stayed with me.

For fear of rambling, maybe I should wrap this up. I guess the point is that going to Colorado and spending time with some of the most beautiful people I have ever known did not so much teach me that I was safe. It taught me that some of the most beautiful stories are never written because we're too afraid they will be a tragedy... for that matter, some of the most beautiful stories are tragedies in places. Friendships are like that. I could choose to live all my life locked inside looking out a window... or else I could stand singing in the snow, freezing cold, skin burning, but alive.

All of this pointed out to me again how much everything is changing. As I said before, the moot in August absolutely and completely wrecked me, more so than any other event in my life aside from my initial decision to follow Christ. Everything after that has been the process of watching old habits and thought patterns burn away under the steady pressure of truth. It's not a fun process. Actually, it hurts and makes me feel so tired and numb sometimes... and yet somehow it's beautiful, like being made clean. Like walking in the snow.

- Elraen -

If our hearts are turned to stone, there is hope— we know the rocks will cry out. And the tears aren't ours alone, let them fall into the hands that hold us. Come away from where you're hiding, set aside the lies that you've been living... in the shelter of each other we will live.

- Jars of Clay

1 comment:

miruialiel.eternalprincess said...

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing!