Friday, February 22, 2013

Shoveling Snow & Lent [1]

Shoveling snow and Lent huh? What do they have to do with one another? Well, I like snow. I do not like sin. I am growing in my appreciation of Lent. Yet on top of that; this is the season of Lent, we got a lot of snow yesterday where I live (KS), and sin – well, sin is pretty much everywhere.

Yet there is more to the connection of snow, sin, and Lent than their current presence all around me at the moment. However, their current presence was certainly the inspiration for this and some following posts.

Many in the Christian faith are familiar with the concept of their sins being washed “whiter than snow”. One’s knowledge of this could be via a text in Isaiah 1:18; “Come now, let us reason together, says YHWH, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (ESV). One’s knowledge of this concept may have come through a song, of that title, by James L. Nicholson. 
Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole;
I want Thee forever to live in my soul.
Break down every idol, cast out every foe;
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow.
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

To be certain, it is assuring to know that even though sin has left its ugly mark on every single one of us, thanks to Jesus, we can indeed be “whiter than snow”. I can hardly think of that concept without having Romans chapter five come to mind – how God acted on my (our) behalf while I was still a sinner. Yes, because of Jesus I can be justified; I can be “whiter than snow”. 

I imagine the concept of being “whiter than snow” likely comes to one’s mind more readily when looking at fresh snow. After all, it is a peaceful picture, and taking that concept into our lives and how we are that way with God can be a comforting reality. Yet there is a hidden reality, if you will, under the pristine and unblemished fresh snow.

An elderly couple lives across the street from us; whenever it snows I clear their driveway as well. I will never forget the first time I cleared it. Why? Well, I did our driveway first and then headed over to theirs. In doing ours I had become accustomed to giving hard shoves and pushes to move the snow across the even driveway. Yet as I attempted this on their driveway I came to more than one shoulder-jarring (and back-jarring and wrist-jarring) halt. Why? Their driveway has a variety of cracks in it. Yet on top of that, grass and weeds had grown up in those cracks, and while they were now either dead or dormant, the left behind foliage added to the difficulty of snow shoveling. In other words, not only did I have to shovel the snow, I also had to feel my way for cracks, and then chop through the foliage in order to clear their driveway.

So, again you may be wondering – snow? sin? Lent? – I am not getting it. The issue is this. Despite the “whiter than snow” gift those “in Christ” have…a reality still exists. This reality is sin. Even the most beautiful snowfall only obscures what is really beneath the surface. In the case of our neighbor’s driveway it was a lot of cracks that made shoveling snow more challenging (and time-consuming). This is where Lent comes in. An aspect of Lent is preparing oneself for Resurrection Sunday (Easter) by taking a more serious look at sin in our own lives. Sin is present in your life; sometimes in obvious ways, but at other times sin is lurking beneath an otherwise pristine surface. What will you do about it?  

Just to be clear, I am not downplaying the truth of “whiter than snow” – yet I am calling us to not downplay the reality of sin in our lives either. While we may be “pure” in God’s sight…the reality of sin in our lives can and does lead to jarring impacts. These impacts affect not only our lives, but the lives of those around us as well. So what is one to do? We will look at that next time.