For some New Englanders, the cold, dark, icy days of winter can seem like a long narrow tunnel interrupting reality– a constricting passageway when life can be really awful, connecting the eras when life is awfully real. Some of us find winter just something to get through. Driving to and from work in the dark, huddling inside to avoid the cold, enduring a bout with the flu– these things make winter seem like a long tunnel that connects “real life” on either end. Sometime after the last Christmas things are packed away, we face the inevitable confinement of the New England winter and resign ourselves to tunnel life.
On the other hand, as long as we are feeling well and the furnace is working, life during the tunnel days provides us with something that “real life” does not: time to reflect. On still, dark winter evenings we think deeply and meditate. We enjoy reading and studying God’s word. We take time to nourish our souls. The harshness of the outdoors makes us let go of “real life” long enough to immerse ourselves in good literature or to watch a compelling movie. We grow, we change.
And we also learn to look for beauty inside the starkness of the season. If we take the time to look for them, frigid winter nights grant us thrills that balmy summer nights do not. The full moon rides high in the sky, reflecting its cold, clear light off the yards below. To the delight of the astute observer, God gives us strange, fleeting gifts like the interplay of the shadows created by outdoor lanterns and moonlight on the crust of the stark white snow.
And so we finally reach the midpoint of the tunnel: “Feb Four.” On this morning, the fourth day of February, we mark the halfway point of the winter experience. Starting today, we are trudging out of the long dark tunnel; we are driving out of it, not into it. And that gives us hope, because even though we know winter can be used to shape us for the good, we don’t want it to last too long.