All this cold has me thinking about how much we need warmth, and not just the kind that comes from furnaces.
People used to say, "Cold hands, warm heart." If that's true, there are a whole lot of warm-hearted people out there these days. In almost 40 years living in New England, I can't remember a time when single-digit temperatures held on for more than a few days. Certainly not for a few weeks. I mean, I don't remember moving to Minnesota. I also don't remember the last time (but I think there was one) when I seriously considered shopping for dog boots. Our little guy can hardly stay out long enough to do what dogs do -- or are supposed to do -- outside. His feet just can't handle the cold. Meanwhile, our son Austin is headed out to a commercial shipping internship on an Alaskan oil tanker. The temperature in Washington State when he arrived was a balmy 40 degrees. That's practically bikini weather. When last we checked, it was warmer in Juneau and Anchorage than it was at home. Ironic, right?
Winters this cold and dark might build character, but flirting with zero really isn't a great way to live. I don't know about anyone else, but I suspect I'm not the only one who has been wondering about moving south over the past two weeks. Okay, I'll admit it: scheming is somewhat more than just wondering. Of course, even Louisiana has seen lows below freezing. People there probably don't even have coats. (Either that, or they wear parkas when it drops below 50. Brrrrrrr.)
All this cold has me thinking about how much we need warmth, and not just the kind that comes from furnaces. Every one of us needs the warmth of a smiling face, a gentle touch, a caring look that asks "are you all right?" We also need the heat that radiates from a strong arm, a calm word, and a protective embrace.
Our world is frozen stiff, and warm hearts are few and far between. Winter reigns in too many frostbitten souls. So many of us remember how we once suffered the cold and now seek refuge behind walls of ice where no refuge can be found. To protect our hearts from hurt, we've pushed away the warmth of love -- both human and divine. And we're as cold inside as we are out.
The God who came to us as a child, exposed himself to all the elements we dread most. He knows how to warm cold hearts. He cries, so we might hear his deepest longings and reach to hold him in our arms. He toddles, so we might take him by the hand and follow his every step. He sleeps, so we might learn how to rest without fear, secure in the Father's hands.
No matter how cold the world has become, know this: even now, beneath the snow and ice and wind and frozen ground, spring is forming. Even on a winter day, the sun turns snowdrifts into puddles, and weighed-down branches snap back and upward once again. Rain and warm breezes will come, and even the tightest buds cannot remain closed.
The same is so for all things human. In secret soul-hollows the heart of God is beating; his cadence is spring. Our God is a fire of love, one that lights the darkness, warms the cold, and makes all things new. We can do no better than to wrap ourselves -- and one another -- in him. Come in from all that is cold, from all that is icy and lifeless and dead. Come into God's warm and warming embrace, and you will find that it is already spring.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.