Traci and I are experiencing our first full winter here in Northern Michigan. The snow hit the ground for good in early November, and here in mid-February, it’s still falling strong (another 6” fell yesterday). For the year, over 200” has fallen on our 320 acre home, and we sill have the rest of February and all of March (and probably some of April) (ok…maybe the first part of May, too!) to experience more. For our family, we’ve never seen this much snow.
Of course, in order for so much snow to fall, temperatures have to drop below freezing. I realized the other day that we haven’t seen a day of temps above 32 since December. In fact, we’ve spent a lot of this winter with what locals promise us us is “unseasonably cold” weather; weeks where the temp stays in single digits. It can be a little bothersome at times -- especially since the van heaters don’t ever quite get warmed up -- as you end up walking around the house wearing a light coat, sweatshirt or hoodie.
Then on Saturday as I was doing my morning Bible reading I came across this passage in 1 Timothy 6: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” In the immediate context, Paul is talking about how easy it is to love money and to make the pursuit of money the highest goal in life, but the application is much broader. Contentment applies to every of life, even weather.
We have actually really enjoyed the winter here, but have marveled at how often people complain about the cold or snow. We live in northern Michigan…it’s going to be cold and snowy! Back in Oregon, though, we remember how often people would complain about the rain. I remember how often I would complain about the rain! Just how our snow starts in November, Salem rain would start in November and go through the first part of July. But that’s the price we paid to have year-around green, gorgeous summers that lasted into October and mild winter temps.
The more Traci and I talked about the weather, the more we realized we’ve heard people complain everywhere, about everywhere weather pattern. We’ve heard complaints of snow in northern Michigan, of rain in the Willamette Valley, of sun in Maui, Hawaii and of wind in the great plains states. I’m sure we’ll be murmuring around here when summer comes and we get our first big dose of heat and humidity on the same day!
I don’t think this weather whining phenomenon points to a sudden increase in local meteorological interest, I think it stems from a chronic problem of a lack of contentment. I don’t have to listen to another Lake Ann local complain to see this reality, I can listen to myself to talk to know this is true! Contentment is a hard virtue to embrace.
First of all, let me be clear about what contentment is not. It’s not loving every situation you’re in, and the virtue does not require you to abandon any hope for a different future. In other words, you can be content, while working toward something different. Contentment does, however, include the following ideas:
* Being okay in whatever circumstances you are presently residing
* You don’t have to be a Pollyanna (does anyone know that reference anymore?!) but you can’t be a complainer
* Embracing your current reality as opportunity from God for you to grow, and to help others grow, too
* Recognizing that you don’t know the end-game, only God does. So being content requires faith in God’s ultimate plan for our lives, even when we can’t see what He’s doing!
So last week, we had another school closure because of snow and below zero wind chills. We’ve had 7 this year (“an unusually high amount” according to locals), and they aren’t always at the most convenient of times. However, my wife is amazing and she chose the path of contentment despite the significant disruption the snow day caused in her work flow. What did she do? She scooped up piles of the freshly fallen white powder and showed the kids how to make Snice Cream (CJs name for ice cream made from snow). And now, almost every day since, we’ve enjoyed Snice Cream (especially tasty when made with frozen strawberries!) in our Winter Wonderland.
Are you living in contentment? Maybe you’re struggling with the weather, or maybe you’re experiencing something more severe. You don’t have to love the circumstances you’re in to be content, but you do have to choose to trust God’s hand in these moments. I wish contentment was always as easy as making Snice Cream, but somedays I have to face my worst fears, my biggest heartache or my greatest failures and have to make the same choices to trust God, while I pray for, and work toward, a different future.
How would you rate your contentment today?
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!