Thursday, January 10, 2008

Recalling God's Goodness 7

Isaiah 1:17-18

Learn to do good.
Seek justice.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.

“Come let’s reason together,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
I will make them as white as snow...

Outside the snow is falling. The weather report indicates we will get about four inches of "the white stuff" tonight. We do get tired of snow up in the north, except for die-hard skiers. However, there is something almost magical about snow.

When I lived in Southern California, we spoke of how we'd like to "go to the snow." For Los Angeles people, that meant a trip out of the basin and up to the mountains. Ken and I were laughing recently, remembering how our church youth group would dress for the cold. We layered on two, or maybe three pairs of socks, long underwear (if we could find such an item) or sweat pants over our jeans, sweaters, sweatshirts, coats, hats, gloves. I am surprised we could walk, but we'd trudge up a hill and careen down on a sled or toboggan. The thing that made us laugh was recalling the bright, sunny days we spent in those mountains. The temperatures might be in the 30s, or even 40s, but the snow was deep and we thought it was horribly frigid.

We always hoped it would snow while we were up in the mountains. It never did. I never saw snow fall until I left the state years later to accompany my Marine husband to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

In those days in California I knew snow was white and I knew snow was cold and wet. I had no idea of the many kinds of snow one can experience! There are the lovely, fluffy flakes familiar from Christmas movies. Everyone loves that kind of snow. It is beautiful and it is light, making it easy to shovel off the driveways. It covers tree branches and twigs and fences and lamp posts with a lacy frosting that transforms an ordinary landscape into a wonderland. There is the snow that resembles tiny ice pellets, whipping painfully into your face and down your collar as the wind howls. There is heavy, wet, backbreaking snow. There is snow mixed with ice, a treacherous combination. If conditions are right, there is snow that sparkles in the moonlight as though dusted with diamonds--one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. There are large flakes and "dry" snow, and tiny flakes and "wet" snow.

Regardless, snow is white. Snow on a sunny day can be painfully white.

When we were students at Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, ND, we had a friend and fellow-student who had come to school in the USA from Nigeria. Why he was attending school in North Dakota was beyond our comprehension. The poor man was never warm, even in mid summer.

I recall him standing at a window in the college cafeteria on a rare day when the wind was still. Our friend was experiencing his first snowfall, and he was watching the lacy flakes drift down with a look of wonder in his eyes. He was speaking quietly to himself, and drawing near to him, I realized he was saying, "Oh God! Oh, Lord God! How wonderful! Wash my and I shall be whiter than snow! Whiter than snow!"

Ah the wonder that you, Almighty God, divine Creator of all that is, want to speak with me. Thank you for the promise of cleansing, of purity, of a fresh beginning! Wash me from my iniquities, as the Psalmist said. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow (Psalm 51:10).

4 comments:

P.S. an after-thought said...

Lovely essay. I was thinking of my Ugandan friends who can only picture snow as hail. But I was still surprised at where your essay went. I will have to use this image when I next write to Uganda. Thanks.

HeyJules said...

What a treat to get to see someone see snow for the very first time! I think I'd probably praise God, too!

Kievas said...

I hadn't really thought about that connection. Thank you for pointing it out...I'll try to remember it the next time I have to clear the driveway :)

Lorna said...

waiting for the snow to return ...