Growing up, I didn’t like snow days. Well, at least not a ton of them.
They interfered with my summer vacation. They kept me inside because I was too shy to play with my neighbors. They made my mom steal the TV all day so she could watch her boxed DVD sets of 24. They gave me severe cases of cabin fever and restlessness.
To be honest, the only time I liked snow days was in college, and only one in particular. During the Snowpocalypse of 2010, on the one snow day I ever got in my undergraduate career, my best friends and I walked up hills and through woods, threw snowballs and played with giant icicles, and had hot chocolate afterwards. We laughed, shivered, and made so many memories. It was like a scene stolen from heaven, a claiming of a childhood I was never bold enough to have on my own.
But after college, snow days lost their meaning even more. Most managers wouldn’t tell you to stay home unless there was legitimate risk, and graduate school is even pickier about shutting down than undergraduate. I started to groan when meteorologists began predicting major snowstorms, knowing I’d have to brave ice and snow to make 8 bucks an hour doing meaningless work and not having time to play in the snow. Not that it mattered, because I hadn’t formed any relationships strong enough that warranted a call for a snow play date.
This snow storm was different, though. And in the early, pre-dawn hours of Thursday at 3 AM, I fell in love with snow.
I’d known this storm was coming for at least a week. My professor had made our exam a take-home and “on your honor” one, and the meeting the students were supposed to attend for the new professor candidate had been rescheduled before the storm. And before I went to bed for the night, I heard students laughing and playing in the half-foot of snow that had accumulated in our parking lot. It was at this point that I figured this would be just the same snow day I’d known as a lonely child. Watching everyone else play and have fun while I sulked in my room watching Netflix.
But somehow, I couldn’t sleep that night. Maybe it was the accidental 2 hour nap I took that afternoon. Maybe it was the restlessness I have been feeling within me for so long. Call it what you will, but at 3 AM, my bitter and lonely inner child finally snapped at me and demanded the fun she had denied herself all of her life. So, I threw off my blankets, bundled up in layers, threw on my boots and some socks over my hands (my gloves were somewhere in my car)…
…and walked out of the warmth of my apartment and into the storm.
I was immediately hit in the face with microscopic snow crystals and felt them stick to my face as the brisk wind whipped them up. I almost slipped on a concrete parking block as I ventured into the middle of the parking lot. I found a spot perfectly untouched and perfectly in the middle, and I looked up to the sky as I fell backwards and began to make snow angels. Two in the parking lot. One in front of my roommate’s car. One in what was normally a grassy lot outside of my building but was now covered in snow. I drew a heart on my roommate’s windshield even though I knew that more snow would come and fill it in before she would see it. I laughed and giggled as I kicked the snow and closed my eyes as I threw my head back and let it wash over my face.
And in the midst of this joy, I soaked in the quiet. It’s not often, living so close to a college campus and with a bunch of college students, that you get truly quiet moments in Harrisonburg. But this was one of them. It was completely silent except for the wind and soft falling snow. It wasn’t an eerie kind of silence, the kind that made me nervous. It was the silence of peace, serenity, rest.
It was the Silence of God’s Presence.
Call it Divine Intervention, or the Universe Calling Out to Me, or whatever you will, but this all happened after a day I spent reflecting on who God is to me, what God looks like, how I follow God, and all those other big important life questions I struggle with on a daily basis.
That afternoon, I had opened up to my friend and my small group about how far I have strayed from the Christianity of my youth and have basically become the postmodern heretic they feared would come over the youth of America. I opened up about my fears of a God of anger, hatred, and abandonment, a God different from the one I have experienced. I opened up about my fears of communicating with God and who I would encounter at the other end, if I would encounter anyone at all. I not only feared an angry God; I mostly feared an absent God. The fear of this absence made me abstain from prayer. My group encouraged me to sit with the tension and not only to continue to seek out God, but let God “catch up to me.”
And then at 3 AM, I like to think God did catch up. I like to think that my late night/early morning escapade was God’s reminder that I have changed, but that change is good and in the right direction. I like to think this was an answer to my unsaid prayers, to the inner groaning of my soul, that God has met me where I am. I like to think that maybe this is the God I encountered in the past and am now encountering in a deeper way, the God who calls me to be the one God created me to be, the one who wants to play in the snow so desperately that she ventures into the storm at 3 AM to enjoy it.
Later that day, at 4 PM, just over 12 hours after my divine moments, I had a snow play date with some neighbors. Then we ate cookies, shared some laughs, and returned to our studying. And after all of that fun and laughter, I realized that while I lay awake in the snow at 3 AM, my soul began to reawaken to love, life, vulnerability, and God’s presence, too. And I was joyful that the God who met me where I was throughout my years was still willing and more than able to meet me where I am today.