Winter is still coming

And it’s not even February yet

You know that feeling when it hits you that winter hasn’t even been for a month? That January isn’t half over yet? Which means that February is still to come? That winter is still coming?

Yeah. That’s where I am with seminary at the moment.

I have two ethics classes this semester, plus a Hebrew Bible class. Yes, I am past halfway through, but I still get the feeling that the dismantling that occurs during seminary is not yet over. I also still do not have a clear sense of what I will “do” afterward, although I know it will be through a lens of teaching.

As I await classes to resume in late January, I realize I am in the lull. The same lull before the worst of winter hits in early February.

Parker Palmer says in Let Your Life Speak:

Our inward winters take many forms-failure, betrayal, depression, death. But every one of them, in my experience, yields to the same advice: “The winters will drive you crazy until you learn to get out into them.” Until we enter boldly into the fears we most want to avoid, those fears will dominate our lives. But when we walk directly into them-protected from frostbite by the warm garb of friendship or inner discipline or spiritual guidance-we can learn what they have to teach us. Then we discover once again that the cycle of the seasons is trustworthy and life-giving, even in the most dismaying season of all.

Yay, me. I remembered, recognized, and reiterated that my vocation is that of a teacher. That does nothing for me as I face the uphill climb of the second half of a Master of Divinity degree. I am still afraid of many things even as I thoroughly enjoy my time in seminary.

I need to take a lesson from my own playbook — get outside. I need to get outside of myself, my fears, my squirrel cage, my attempts to reason and process everything. Getting outside in the winter … hmmm.

I grew up in Dallas, Texas. Snow was quite rare in the 1970s there. Sometimes we had a sparse blanket of white stuff on the ground, but usually that was just ice pellets. Snowmen were more sticks and dry grass than snow, and many times they were shorter than my 7 year old self. I craved a good snowfall then.

I have pictures of myself as child playing in feet-deep snow with my uncle Gene in Lincoln, Nebraska when we apparently went to visit. I could stay out for hours with him, building snowmen, hurling snowballs at my brother, making snow angels, trying -and failing- to make an igloo. Cold and wet did not bother me.

I love the snow.

Getting older leads one to consider cold and wet, though. And messes that are made on floors from wet gear. And frustration with how long it takes to really warm up. I am ashamed to say that more times than not, I avoid going outside in the snow now.

Palmer’s words challenge me. Using my love of snow as a metaphor, my place in the seminary journey is close to the calendar today. I am about mid-Jan in my schooling. I know what that looks like in real life.

I can choose to hunker down and wait out the winter, ignoring my fears. Or I can choose to engage them — like playing in the snow with my uncle- and learn from them.

And let the gentle onset of spring catch me by surprise, with a snowball aimed and ready.

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