What a delight and honour to have Carolyn Weber as our Guest Blogger today.
“There is no greater joy than reunion,” I once wrote, based on a wise woman’s words to me. In returning to Canada as a believer, and as a faith writer to boot, the phrase now brings joy so alive as to stun me with gratitude. What a delight then, and a privilege, to join all of you here at the site of InScribe, Canada’s longest serving Christian writers’ organization. For me, it is a circle of grace indeed, a sort of homecoming.
In my conversion memoir Surprised by Oxford, I chronicle how I became a Christian during my first year at Oxford University in England. As someone who did not grow up in the faith, and who then travelled widely and lived in various places before returning to Canada a few years ago, I have been given the gift of seeing “home” again with new eyes.
As a result, I would like to share with you today, then, an excerpt from my new book Holy is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present (InterVarsity Press, 2013) that may particularly resound with us more northerly folk.
I wrote this latest book as a kind of prayer walk, as a way of working through how we are called to a second, deeper calling as believers. In the every day, and every day, we can keep converting, we can keep turning toward Him. By choosing to be in God’s presence, by grasping on to Him and refusing to let go, we indeed experience any moment as holy.
I hope you will enjoy! And I wish you every blessing, new friends.
Excerpt from Holy is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present
Growing up in the Great White North, I remember hearing stories about pioneers who had to run a rope or clothesline from their house door to their barn or shed, so they could find their way in the blinding snow to tend to their animals or reach a firewood supply. In these wintry furies, the streets are a mess: traffic halts, letters sit on a mound of snow inside the mailbox, indoor pipes freeze. No matter what you do, the snowy onslaught keeps coming and you can’t stay on top of it. Everything shuts down. Existential angst builds as you shovel and shovel without effect, much like a frostbitten Sisyphus pushing a great snowball up the hill only to have it roll back down, and over you.
How do we find our way in the chaos?
I considered hanging a clothesline from my bedroom to the nursery for those nighttime trips resulting from the demands of newborn twins.
But it was the inner, not the outer, weather that most terrified me. Being cut open literally caused the inner me to pour out. Even as Christians we can lose our way. We all lose our bearings. How to find God in the snowstorm? I found myself wondering.
Countless snowflakes whirling outside the window mirror the dizzying effect of our daily addictions to the opiate of busyness. And then there comes that pause . . . when the snow stops swirling and the wind dies down. When you open your back door, or rather, push and push on it until you can shimmy a small wedge into the dune of snow that has accumulated. And then you stand in a small triangle of space, the heat of the house on your back and the cold of the winter on your face, and you hold your breath at the settling.
For a moment, seeing—sensing—how white does indeed hold all colors at once.
For, if you are not still, if you do not stop and listen, you will miss the hush of newly fallen snow. The sight of it powdering the ever- greens. The delicate icing of branches so that the barren trees are given life renewed and stretch their glistening arms in a nudity blown from glass.
I look at my sleeping babes with the same willing suspension of disbelief.
Part of the glory of swirling snow, I think, is that you cannot possibly count all the snowflakes. Yet we know that each one has its own distinct pattern, a personal fingerprint. Not everything that counts can be counted, said Albert Einstein, a man who lived intimately with numbers, and science, and wonder.
Irreverence begins in not paying attention. And yet, I think, it can also stem from counting too often and too closely. The eternal cannot be insisted into a measurement. The snowstorm reminds us of this. Eventually, it pricks our want for clear sky, our ache for the star by which to mark our journey. We crave the wisdom of settled clarity, especially from within the flurry of beauty that startles and quiets.
Carolyn Weber is an author, speaker and teacher. Her recent academic positions include associate professor of English literature at Seattle University and visiting associate professor of English Lit. at Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California. She is also the author of Surpised by Oxford, a memoir about her doctoral studies at Oxford. Carolyn and her husband share the joy of parenting four spirited children in London, Ontario.