Record-breaking low temperatures in the northeastern United States and unusually heavy snowfall in other parts of the country remind me of one of my husband's favorite cartoons. A terrified looking couple is in their living room, and the man is on the phone saying, "Yes, we'd like to join you for dinner tonight. But the weather mongers have us paralyzed with fear." I had to ask myself if I, too, was making too much of the cold, icy weather.
Yet while that cartoon rings true to me, the following stories ring even truer:
• The actor Alec Guinness wrote of an Irish woman who looked out the window at the gray skies and drizzle, and said, "It's a fine lovely day, and no mistake" ("Blessings in Disguise").
• A friend told me that she didn't mind walking her dog, not even in the recent subzero temperatures. Circumstances had almost forced her and her husband to find another home for the dog, but in the end they had been able to keep him. She was so happy to still have him, the temperature didn't bother her. She said that her love for this dog made her feel warmer.
• As I was walking to the grocery store a few weeks ago through wind-driven snow, the school crossing guard stopped traffic for me and called out, "Isn't the weather wonderful? I love the snow."
The Bible tells the stories of those who, you might say, made little of the weather. The great prophet Isaiah, who urged a dissolute nation to return wholeheartedly to the one God, promised that if they were faithful, each man and each woman would no longer be at the mercy of weather and climate, but would be "like a hiding place from the wind, a covert from the tempest, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land" (Isa. 32:2, New Revised Standard Version).
The Gospels give examples of how Jesus fulfilled Isaiah's promise by stilling storms. The Gospel according to Matthew gives this account: "A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but [Jesus] was asleep. And [his students] went and woke him up, saying, 'Lord, save us! We are perishing!' And he said to them, 'Why are you afraid, you of little faith?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm" (Matt. 8:24-26, NRSV).
That question, "Why are you afraid?" has made me examine what it is that I'm making much of. And over the years I have chosen to make less of the weather and more of God's promise that we shall be like a covert, or shelter, from the tempest. Isaiah's wording of God's promise indicates to me not merely that we will find shelter, but that our very being includes that shelter. It is natural for us to be protected from harm, even when exposed to nasty weather. Nowadays when the weather is cold, snowy, or wet, I bundle up and go about my business as usual.
But it wasn't always like that.
As a child, I believed I had good reasons to be afraid of the weather because every winter I suffered severely from bronchitis. For weeks at a time, I was confined to my bedroom with a humidifier, breathing only warm, damp, medicated air. I hated winter. I feared it.
But gradually I learned that God is infinite good, and that the "great King over all the earth" (Ps. 47:2) is not at the mercy of the weather. I also learned that He who rides "upon the wings of the wind" (Ps. 104:3) would never leave His children to the weather's mercy.
Mary Baker Eddy, the 19th-century theologian who founded this newspaper, rouses us to an appreciation of nature's harmless beauty by wryly reminding us that although "the snowbird sings and soars amid the blasts," it does not catch cold from wet feet ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 220).
As I became more convinced of God's goodness and the inherent goodness of His creation, I stopped suffering from bronchitis and haven't suffered from it in over three decades. Much to others' amazement, I now enjoy the snow, even joining those in my neighborhood who make little of the wet and icy weather, happily walking the 1.5-mile path around a nearby pond ... even during this winter's record-breaking low temperatures.