Warmth, Winter, and the Maintenance of Hope

Today is an amazing day in Colorado, at least here on the Front Range. It's sunny, clear and 64 degrees out. 64 degrees! The record-breaking snows we've had this winter are all but melted and it's delightful to finally see the ground beneath the snow. To provide you with some context: starting right before Christmas, we had snow for five weeks straight. Piles and piles of snow. Snow that didn't melt. Snow that was more akin to Minneapolis than Boulder. And we had cold. Record cold. Minus 15 cold. Cold that wouldn't go away. Cold more like Fargo than Denver. So, for us, this thaw is amazing.

But what is interesting to me as a California transplant is that we must hold loosely to warmer weather in Colorado winters. Indeed, later this week, the weather forecasters say we could have more snow, possibly 3-6 inches of it. What this sets up in me is this "won't get fooled again" feeling which robs me of joy in celebrating today's warm weather. I am tempted to hunker down, to brace myself for the onslaught of another hit of winter. I am beckoned out of the enjoyment of the present and into a dread of the future.

Driving home from noon's Ash Wednesday service, I discussed this with my wife. I realized that this is a metaphor for hope. We live in winter on earth, most the time. The winter of suffering, sin, and death. The winter of injustice, poverty, environmental pollution, war, and famine. There are many glimpses of spring around us (in the good things we enjoy), but for the most part, we live in winter. The issue for people of faith is to recognize several things. First, the big picture: winter isn't permanent. Spring will come--and that's what the resurrection of Jesus Christ declares. And once we're in this Spring, there will never be another winter.

But we still live here and now and so we're reminded of another truth: we need to hold in tension three things: 1) the reality of the good gifts we enjoy (these warm days, temporary though they be) along with, 2) the reality of winter's harshness; and 3) the eternal springtime to come. To focus only on one or two is to miss the big picture and grow either naive and foolish or cynical and hopeless. The challenge is to hold onto all of these truths and to live faithfully in the moment. Sometimes that means popping on the bike for a rare winter ride in the fleeting warm weather. Sometimes that means breaking out the snowshoes and embracing the beauty (if not the hardship) of a fresh Colorado snowstorm. Sometimes that means just waiting and hoping: Spring will come and, even now, with sharp eyes you can see it.

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