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Monday, February 16, 2015

The Lessons of Bad Weather

     As my family and I were awaiting a predicted winter storm last week, expectations were running high among my children, and if I’m being honest, myself as well. After coming home early from work, picking up my children from school, and hunkering down at home, there was a sense of reminiscence about the ice storm of 2003.
        Call us crazy, or maybe just people with a “be careful what you wish for” naiveté, but my family and I find ourselves in those situations secretly hoping for a good dose of rough weather. It’s not that I wish danger upon travelers or suffering for the homeless, or even, for that matter, a few days off of work. Rather, I think we just crave an adventure.
        What makes bad weather seem like an adventure? For one thing, it’s a reminder that no matter how sanitized and scheduled our lives have become, there are still things beyond our control. Our ancestors understood this more readily than us, tucked safely as we are into our climate-controlled homes, eating produce grown in irrigated fields and sold in well-stocked supermarkets.  
         There’s a reason of course that people for generations have talked about the weather. For an agricultural society, weather was everything—a family’s well being depended upon the conditions necessary for a good crop. Families also oriented the rhythm of their lives around the rhythm of the seasons, with activity slowing in the colder and shorter days of winter, while later speeding up for planting and harvest.
         In our age, we’ve largely lost the sense of rhythm that is built into the very fabric of creation. Even the idea of Sabbath has become swallowed up in our relentless urban pace, with little noticeable difference in retail hours or family activity. Furthermore, electric illumination has made darkness irrelevant, so that certain factories and businesses can run 24/7.
         A good winter storm, then, can bring us back to reality, force us to slow down, and expose the presumptuousness of our well-laid plans. As the Scriptures remind us, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit’—you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Instead you should say, ‘If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that’” (James 4:13-15).
         Bad weather can also remind of us of what we take for granted, such as electricity, heat, easy travel, etc.—conveniences unknown to many in other places. A little suffering is good for the soul, and reminds us of the plight of the world’s poor.
         Finally, bad weather can remind us of the precious treasures we have in our family and friends. For my children, they still cherish the memory from the winter of 2003 of being holed up in one room together for a couple of days, camped around our fireplace, cooking a pork loan wrapped in aluminum foil in the hot embers. They don’t remember the cold nights, the gray skies, or the scratchy throats from a smoky house—they recall a family adventure.
         They also remember the friends who invited us to spend a few nights at their home—quite an act of hospitality—and the time we spent with them, playing cards, breaking out guitars and singing—just plain “visiting,” as they call it in the country. Since the ice storm, I’m sorry to say, we haven’t taken time to get together with them again, though we live only a few miles apart.
In the end, what does that say about us, about our lives, and about what we value?

          So thank God for the occasional blessing of bad weather. Maybe it will remind us that God is God, that we are not, and that our daily lives, our schedules, our health, our families, and our comfort are all gifts from him. And with the wisdom of Job, may we learn to say, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away—blessed be the name of the Lord!”

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