There is more than a foot of snow covering the Old North State today. It fell from a low, heavy winter sky over sleepy time days that lingered like a nap on Sunday. It is suppertime now. As I look through the window into the backyard I see the charcoal silhouette of leafless Crepe Myrtle branches casting familiar winter shadows across this welcomed snowy ground. I feel satisfied with it all. I do like the winter season. The winter has an austere beauty that costs a little bit more to appreciate her, but is well worth the expense. She gives warmth in return, which is really rather strange for such a cold thing. Everything I am given from spring, summer, and fall—and, don’t get me wrong, I am given much—I receive at once. Yellow daffodils in May, California-blue skies in June, and quilted patchwork colors on autumn hills in October each offer abundant blessings without hesitation. Yet, the blessings come, it seems to me, as an uncomplicated gift from a kind and predictable friend. Those are good friends indeed. The gifts are given, as it were, without mystery—uncomplicated, relaxed, and cheerful. Those are good gifts anytime! We need three of the seasons, I think, to be just the way they are: without any strings attached. Who could take two seasons like winter? Winter has blessings, but they are blessings that come from behind the frigid wind, beneath the icy sheet, and beyond the barren, February-fields. Winter blessings will come as the wind blows seed into the wood to germinate new growth, or the ice fashions a perfect habitat over earth to incubate a bulb that will spring forth in scarlet glory, or, most majestically, that will paint a prairie ocean of moving, golden grain across endless acres of rich loam made just so by the February frost and the long winters’ seasoning. It is at that moment when you stand to take the vista of the glorious scenery into your soul that the frosty season of yesterday has its way with you. It is worth it all, then, to welcome winter, now, so to have these and so many other blessings tomorrow. That is why I bless the snow and the frozen ground.
The Lord told us, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3 English Standard Version).
Winter is our present lot. Heaven is our longing. I have seen, again, in this storm, that heaven is a divinely implanted longing given to a people living in a painful, but beautiful, snowy place that is preparing us for tulips and golden fields. They come only after the winter has done its good work.