It’s been a mild winter here in Mid-America. We’ve had minimal snow, the temperatures have never stayed at frigid levels. In fact, while we were away for Christmas, it was in the 50s and 60s for most of the holiday week. Today, we hung around in the 40s and in the late afternoon, we enjoyed a spike in the temperature that was not forecast. It’s warmer right now, at 8 PM, than it was in the early afternoon. A few nights ago, we had some faint lightning in the northern sky. Spring is coming early this year: the trees have their buds sitting at the tips of branches, the geese have squawked their way back north, even Seneca the fuzzy has begun shedding in earnest, losing the thicker fur in favor of his spring/summer collection.
Thoughts of spring get me excited for warmer days and nights, longer days, open windows, golf, walk-runs, road trips, thunderstorms, exploring the area. Winters, even mild ones, are tiresome and trying, especially after the holidays. Winters also leave us tending to abdicate the present in favor of wishing for the future; of course, when we long for the future, that future is unattainable, since we nullify ourselves in the present.
Winter, for many of us, is a season of anxious anticipation for what’s next, a season to be endured in deference to something which does not yet exist. We tend to not like winter and its burdens: utility bills, shoveling, road conditions, wind chills, bundling up to get the mail. For three to five months, cold weather dictates our lives and we gripe about it.
Quoth a certain, venerable J.W. Sirvio: “Man, I hate winter!” Indeed, we do. Yet, for all our pining for longer, warmer days and greenery, how often do we live in a winter mentality?
We talk about the future, about the changes we want to make, the places we want to go, the things we have to do, and it’s not inherently wrong to do so. What is wrong is how utterly paralyzed we get in this moment while we daydream aloud about lofty dreams and ambitions. It could be May, replete with chirping songbirds and blooming flowers, and we could be living in early January mindset: desolate, frozen and wishing for anything other than this moment. This moment is what we have, so what are we doing now to influence toward the future we want? Destiny is one thing, but destiny seldom, if ever, guides the chosen frozen to paradise. Some cliché about the thousand-mile journey starting with one step seems apropos. It’s true.
We are ultimately responsible for the future we want, this is a lesson I learned in the wake of a partial lifetime of winter spent amongst charismatic, fundamentalist Christians, whose un-liturgy and eschatological fatalism leaves them waiting for a springtime of rapture and an eternal summer without the trials and tribulations of life here. All the while, the unsaved get what they deserve. Some were nice, perfectly decent people, while many were just sociopaths and creeps. All of them didn’t seem to mind perpetually shoveling the driveway of their lives.
Every day leads us to the future, thus, regardless of the season, it is incumbent upon us to be people of purpose, actively working toward whatever it is we want, and being sensitive to the fact that sometimes we just don’t know what we want. Through it all, we ought to realize that what matters more than our dreams and ambitions is not a what at all, but who. After all, the future ultimately is not comprised primarily of things, but people, people who can completely change the landscape of our dreams and ambitions. Those who are surrounded by loved ones seldom tend to care about the temperature outside.
Spring will come, those buds on the trees will bloom, we’ll put away the heavy coats and sweaters for shorts, tees and sandals. But if we don’t make each day matter, if we don’t invest ourselves into our ambitions and those with whom we generously share our lives, our hearts will remain in icy desolation. This is the future, as is this…as is this…
Hope without actively striving toward fulfillment is hoping against hope: that future that will never come. It, ironically, makes doubt a stronger enemy, despair a much more attractive companion. In short, it leaves us scraping the ice off our sidewalks in flip-flops, even more discontented with our lot in life.
This is not the time to idly wait for the seasons to change, this, however, is the time to move toward what you want, who you want to stand with you for the rest of your life, where you want to be, what you want to accomplish. This is the time to dare to be something greater, to live toward spring while the world around you freezes to death in winter.