Weather produces metaphor about healing America
Editor’s note: The Rev. Ehrhardt Lang is a Lompoc resident and a retired pastor who served from 1981-89 at St. Mark United Methodist Church in Santa Barbara.
Some snowstorms are exceptionally good. The Earth needs them, and people who live in snow regions are especially fortunate.
Each winter their place is repeatedly covered by a total witness from the sky, in which all dirt is hidden, trash becomes invisible, and forests are transformed into Christmas trees. The air is purified, and a profound silence descends upon their land, even its factories.
Cars and trucks disappear, and there is a complete absence of hurry. The entire town is brought to a halt. The snowstorms transform everything into a world that was not there in prior days.
Such snowstorms are like a return to Eden, but in a different way. There are no fruit trees here or flowers, but the world is made into a second paradise. For a few hours on such mornings, every person becomes Robinson Crusoe discovering the first signs of human life.
The tracks are there. Was it a child? What is a man or a woman? Where was this individual headed? From where did he or she come?
But all is at peace. Birds flutter in the trees, brooks emit the sound of an occasional splash from a fish at play. But on this day the world is once again an untouched land in which no former experiences are consequential.
I believe that most people need such snowstorms occasionally.
Everybody is dealing with various kinds of dirt and trash that needs to be removed — perhaps some unfulfilled dreams, some regrets, some remembered horrors, an old grief, a tragic mistake, a constant emotional noise — from which there seems to be no escape.
Can this ugliness of life ever be removed by a perfectly clean morning? Is the end of life the only way out? Or can one travel to a place of snowstorms where all is made new again?
Is there a pure world that can be imposed upon one’s troubled past? Is there a place where one can make first tracks in a fresh snow where nobody else has ever walked?
None of us can go back to an innocent Eden, or a trauma-free world. John Milton described it as “Paradise Lost.”
But a snowstorm can become a welcome metaphor for discovering the possibility of a repaired life, a message from the sky that the silence we once had can be found again, perhaps in an unexpected surprise at daybreak.
For me, a retired pastor, it seems significant that snowstorms always come from above, not from the ground below. King David apparently saw it the same way, when after his moral failure he found himself looking heavenward to pray, “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (Psalm 51).”
After Jan. 6, this may be a good prayer for our morally violated nation right now. The blame game assumes the innocence of all except the accused. But no one can be sure. Our failure is a blight that cannot easily be seen or explained. One definition defines it as “a malignant influence of obscure or mysterious origin, which withers hope.”
Blame here is irrelevant. The loss of hope is the climate needing life’s snowstorms.
Many Americans now see little chance for a return to a healthy nation. Revolutionary types even fantasize about destroying the nation in order to save it.
Like many persons, our nation has never been able to rid itself of a trauma-filled past. From Indian wars, slavery, racial riots, assassinations, political corruption, social injustice to recent assaults on the Capitol, Americans have had to deal with an abundance of trash. A “Paradise Lost” has come into our national conscience.
Snowstorms, however, can remind us of possibilities greater than ever expected. National despair does not have to be the only option. Snowstorms can demonstrate a vision of an entirely new landscape. Instead of beautifying only an obvious ugliness, snowstorms can transform even the smallest fencepost in every person’s backyard.
Snowstorms arrive from the sky. The slogan “In God We Trust” may not be as naive as we have assumed, unless we imagine heaven to play favorites. Jesus clearly rejected this notion, when he said that God “sends the rain on the just and unjust” (Matthew 5:45).
The history of the Jewish people is one of the most inspiring for the moral despair of nations, especially when championed by its greatest prophets. Isaiah announced God’s “snowstorm” to the corrupt nation of his time in these words: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). Isaiah knew the evils of the day, but no one saw hope with greater certainty.
These days our national news is full of snowstorms, but we can be encouraged by how often snowstorms have become images of hope and renewal.
The Rev. Ehrhardt Lang