Sunday, January 21, 2007
THE TIME OF QUIET AND SOLITUDE
Winter has finally set in, the Christmas season is now a memory, and the new life of busy Spring sleeps, waiting in the womb of the earth. The wise person will now take the time to be quiet, to reflect on one's own life and life in general. Though some pursue a life of endless summer, I look forward to a time of cleansing cold, and eagerly guard my time of quiet and solitude. God has purposefully given us a rhythm and seasons to live by, and they all mean to keep us healthy and balanced, in body, mind, and spirit, if we will but receive them for the gifts they are.
When people's way of life was to till the earth, winter was the one season when their labor lessened a bit, and they had a chance to rest. This was a time for being with each other, for repairing things around the homestead, for enjoying the fruits of the previous harvest, and for weddings and visiting. There was finally ample time for handwork, for making furniture or for engaging in a hobby. Since there were no electronic diversions, a person would simply enjoy gazing at the beauty of a winter day, viewed safely from the window of one's little home. The children, so needed for their valuable help around the farm, probably cherished going to school a bit more than children today, for it meant leaving the back-breaking field work behind and having the time and opportunity to read and learn and enjoy their friends. Time would also permit the winter passtimes of sledding and, along with adults, ice skating.
Even now, even if we live in a city, winter tells us to slow down, to stay off the icy roads at night, to be home and warm and safe. The long nights seek to lull us into seeking our beds earlier, thereby conserving our own energy, as well as light and heat.
I am especially glad to be a wife and mother at home at this time of year. I finally have some time to think, to catch up on little projects and to plan a garden and perhaps a summer trip. I remember my sister-in-law talking about this one time. She found winter to be a more peaceful time, when motorcycles were put up and people were less likely to be out loitering around the streets at all hours. She loved the cold weather and the muffled sounds of a world covered in snow. I very much agree and like her, love to be inside when it is windy and stormy, listening to the sounds, and being thankful for the cozy nest the Lord has provided for us. My sister-in-law Helen lives in a small and very humble house, where she and my brother have raised six children. They live in an old city in upstate NY, so its not exactly like they live in what most of us would consider our dream location. Helen, however, has made their home into a cozy, tidy, "little colony of heaven", and their children have grown to be good, responsible people who love the Lord.
Just like at home, the pace has changed and slowed in the Lord's house as well. In liturgical churches, the year is divided into several different seasons, each having its own theme and color. In my church, we have just entered Ordinary Time, the time between the great Christmas feast and the preparatory time of Lent. Ordinary time, as my pastor said, is that time when we walk out our Christian faith, taking the lessons, strength and joys of the recent holidays and showing them forth in our everyday, ordinary lives. I think this is right and appropriate, and I thank God for Ordinary time, and for being an ordinary person, free to carry on my life's work and my Christian walk in obscurity. The liturgical color for Ordinary Time is green, symbolizing life, growth and hope. It reminds me that beneath the exterior white and gray of winter, there continues an interior life of ongoing growth in the Lord, who gives us a future and a hope.
Do you feel hopeful right now? Some pundits somewhere have designated January 22nd as the most depressing day of the year, owing to the Christmas letdown, the credit card bills, the weather and other factors. Perhaps the world thinks like that and perhaps not. Would you have thought of a day that the Lord has made as deserving to be designated the most depressing of the year? It wouldn't have occurred to me.
I'd say that January 22nd should be a day that we bask in the serenity of winter and in God's love for us and that we should reflect on what the Lord says in Isaiah 18:32: "And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places;"