Winter Clarity

My head has been so full of thoughts and ideas, but they get mixed up, and I feel like each one of them is a snowflake in a huge storm: single, disconnected, and then mixed as soon as they settle.  It reminds me of a line from a Mumford and Sons song:

“I stand alone in this winter clarity which clouds my mind.”

A few weeks ago we were eating dinner.  A natural occurrence, and one that happens frequently in our family.  I’ve been reading through Ezekiel, and the conversation around the dinner table was about the detail that was given, by God, for the building of the temple, the allotment of lands, the portions of foods, the sacrifices, etc.  Every square inch was taken care of.  My father wondered, in the most respectful way, why it mattered?  It must signify something important.  I looked down at my food, at the faces around the table, and I laughed.  The circumstance was absurd.

If God were human, we would have said that he took great pains to lay down instructions for the building of the temple.  It probably wasn’t any trouble for him, but he was very particular about it.  The temple was the most important building on earth.  Men spent such great pain and labor building this thing.  It was advancing the kingdom of God, it was fulfilling a decree, it was obeying a command.  Here was a great and wonderful thing happening in the world—it has already happened, and we should not forget it—and here we are, eating dinner.  I didn’t necessarily want to eat, but I needed to.  If I didn’t eat continually, I would die.

I was convinced of my dependence, then.  And not only of mine, but of everybody’s. And I felt minuscule and absurd.

I think I am so proud, that I am the most independent of all the creatures.  And yet, take away the food, the water, the will to live, or the breath of God and I am nothing.  My body is like a machine, and if the battery dies there is no recharging, there is no going back.  It would be so easy to lose my physical life, impossible to regain it on my own.

There have been famines, there have been droughts, there have been oppressive leaders, there have been huge memorials built for great men.

A workman chisels away at the stone for a man he didn’t know, who is now dead and cold.  He is employed by the living, to do something for the dead, so that he may not die from hunger.  Perhaps when he is done with his work he slings his tools over his shoulder and picks his way through dark streets to his home.  Perhaps he has a family, perhaps he lives alone; and once, he covered his face with his hands and wept for something he could not find.  What he made is remembered, but when he is dead, a small stone lies at his head, and people wonder who he might have been, and they don’t know the life he led.

How ironic our life is.

Suddenly everything I have strove for and against, everything I wanted, everything I wept for—it all shrinks back and reveals only me: selfish; using my own means to accomplish my own ends; frivolous.  There are people fighting and dying for my country—for me.  And sometimes I forget that there’s a war; I forget that I am being protected at the price of a life.  I become impatient or unfeeling, and somewhere a young sister is grieving for her brother, who fought and died for us.

The winter becomes so bitter and so cold.  The stark whiteness of the snow blares out any color: it all becomes one.  The world is united under an seeming eternity of white, only broken by the red flare of a cardinals’ wings.  My one clear thought is like that cardinal on the ever-stretching surface of mixed thoughts and ideas.

It is not wrong to be happy; it is not wrong to be sad.  If I sing and dance I cannot be blamed, and if I weep and mourn I cannot be condemned.   There is a greater purpose, a greater meaning in life than leaving my mark upon the world.  It is as particular as the temple, as big, and even more holy.  In the midst of this life I forget that purpose; my tears become selfish, my laugh seeks to banish the doubt in my mind.  I cannot lose sight of the purpose as bright as the cardinal.  I cannot forget about it: it must take up my whole mind, for it demands all my attention, and it is so huge.

And leaving out all worldly pursuits—the dream of being a famous writer or pianist, or any smaller dreams—what is left?  What do I settle my ambition upon?

Christ is as pure and wide as the snow, his blood as striking as the cardinal.  His purpose was deeper than I can ever know, but it was clear and distinct.  No matter what my character, my personality, my position—my purpose will be the same: to pursue holiness.  To become one with Christ.  To spread His Word like a snowstorm, so that all the world lies enthralled in it.

This is my winter clarity.  I must forget about myself.  I must even forget my existence, and I must live only for Christ.  I must be so entwined in his purpose that apart from him I have no inspiration, no ambition, nothing to pursue.

“There’ll come a time you’ll see, with no more tears
And love will not break your heart but dismiss your fears
Get over your hill and see what you find there
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.”
(Mumford and Sons, After the Storm)

And I know that afterwords I will see how much grace I was given, how my heart will finally be free to love Christ fully, how worthy He was of all the pain and suffering I endured for his sake, and how undeserving I am of him, but yet, how much he loves me.  This is the most important thing of all; and if I die forgotten by the world, I die running into the arms of my King.