This morning, my world is white.
It was white yesterday morning, too, but yesterday was different than this today’s dawn. Yesterday it was bleak. What wasn’t blanketed in pure white was washed out – greyed – and a little sad. The wind blew, viciously carrying tiny shards of ice until they landed, stinging, on my face.
This morning, though, the world is white, and sparkling. The wind has ceased, and there are no miniscule frozen daggers stinking my cheeks. It is white, and while the sun hasn’t quite yet touched the streets here in town, it has kissed the peak on Sierra Blanca, making it seem almost pink in the reflective glory of the sunrise.
I’ve just come home after a night at work where emergency ringers on the 911 phones assaulted my ears and radio transmissions were static laden and broken, and I’ve seated myself near the window and breathed in the silence of a home where everyone else sleeps.
I’ve put a load of wash in to run during these precious quiet hours. My daughter was up with the stomach flu last night, so the washing is a necessity. But, I don’t mind because I have an excuse now to sit up and watch the sunbeams stretch through the pines to touch the cold ground below, to see the blanket of snow covering everything glisten and twinkle, and to revel in the silent peace of the dawn.
I’ve always loved the winter – the white snow and the hushed silence it brings. Have you ever noticed how quiet it is when it snows? As if the entire landscape heeded a collective “hush” from multitude of flakes now gathered on the ground. I live for moments like these. This morning, my world is white; and I am reminded of what it means to let the bleak greys of the world fall away.
I imagine this is how the 12 must’ve felt when Jesus rose from his slumber to stand against the winds and speak to them “Peace”. I think, sometimes, our lives have a way of creating such storms that leave us, like the 12 on the boat, flustered and afraid. The winds of our troubles batter us, and sting our eyes with tears, and make our hearts feel as if worry is lodged in the tissue like so many tiny shards of ice in the storm.
It takes mornings covered in silence and pure glistening blankets of white to remind me that the storms are nothing to fear. How easily I forget sometimes that Jesus is like the white silence of a winter’s dawn – making everything seem new – full of promise and peace.
I watch the silent kiss of the sun on this soft ivory morning, and a recent scripture reading comes to mind.
Mark Chapter 7 contains the story of Jesus’ interaction with a Syrophoenician woman that fell at his feet begging for mercy. The story was always so troublesome to me. She was a Gentile who’d sought out the Messiah of the Jews and begged him to take away the tormentor that afflicted her daughter. Jesus, upon seeing the woman fall at his feet and beg for mercy, told her she was a dog, and it wasn’t right to give to the dogs that which should be for the provision of the children. Jesus, he who was to die so that “none may perish, but all would have everlasting life”, looked at this desperate woman’s tear stained face, and told her she wasn’t a “child,” but rather a mongrel that begged at the table.
I don’t like that story. That story reminds me of yesterday morning – bleak, and cold, and cruel.
But, as I sit here this morning and look at the world dressed in it’s pure shimmering cloak and listen to the peaceful silence, I begin to understand exactly what happened between Jesus and this pagan mother begging for mercy.
You see, Jews didn’t keep dogs as pets. Dogs were considered scavengers – filthy mongrels that ate whatever refuse or scraps they could find. They were defiled, and impure.
But, gentiles, especially those from the region from where this woman hailed, did keep dogs as pets. Their mutts were familial companions that often sat at the feet of the children, the most precious members of the household. These little dogs were loved by the masters of the house, and were granted the scraps from the family table, rather than being relegated to dig through the garbage outside.
Jesus had just blurred the lines between Jew and Gentile with a conversation with a group of Pharisees about unclean, defiled hands and hearts, and now, as he called this woman a dog, he blurred them again.
His disciples did not understand, but she did, and she answered in such a way as to let him know that she understood. Jesus called her a dog – an insult among the Jews, but to this desperate Gentile woman, it was a gesture of love. It was the equivalent to the cessation of the winds and the warmth of the sun as it stretched out over a bleak landscape. In that moment, when Jesus called her a dog, he washed her bleak landscape in peaceful, shimmering hope.
This woman came to Jesus, desperate to alleviate the torment that was in her home – the pain and anguish her daughter suffered at the behest of some demon that sought to destroy. She was not supposed to approach a Jew. She was not supposed to approach a strange man. Yet, she courageously did both, humbling herself as the dog at her table must have done many times before hoping for a loving pat on the head and a scrap from the table. Jesus, by calling her a dog, acknowledged that humility and courage. And, he effectively stood and spoke “peace” to her storm at home, and covered her in a blanket of white, making everything fresh and new.
And at that moment, her world was white.
The last few years have made me feel much like the Syrophoenician woman. Like her daughter, I have felt as if this family has suffered at the hands of a devil that seeks to destroy. There is a principality assigned to destroy families, because it is the family that most closely resembles the love of God here on earth, and we have been tormented in ways that Sunday School and devotional books don’t teach. We’ve spent lifetimes in church, and prayer, and in hearing sermons that tell us that if we simply “trust and obey” that our troubles will be lessened, our burdens borne for us, and our tears of grief wiped away. Those sermons and devotionals are lies, at least in part. Our burdens and grief become more. Our troubles increase. The more willing we are to trust and obey, the more diligent the demons sent to destroy and torment us become in accomplishing their mission. Our only hope as the trouble increases is to trust that our faith will be eventually rewarded, and that God himself will provide us strength to endure.
My heart has been so heavy for so long. I’ve thought about the rifts that have formed among loved ones – rifts I don’t understand, or know how to repair. Rifts so deep that apologies and efforts to understand and build bridges seem insufficient to cross. And, I grieve.
I’ve thought about the destruction of two precious boys that had absolutely nothing to do with the awful things that have happened to them. Two boys that have seen and endured more horrifying things in their short lives than most adults have ever had to endure. I’ve thought about my ardent prayers on their behalf – begging, like the Syrophoenician – that seem to have fallen, impotent, before reaching God’s ears. And, I grieve.
I’ve thought about the disease that’s ravaged my parents’ bodies – threatening to take their lives and succeeding in taking their comfort. I look at my mother, weary in trying to bear the burdens of everyone else, and feeling very alone and weary as a result. I look at my father, a man that did 3 tours in Viet Nam and died more than once for the sole purpose of keeping his little brother from being drafted, and I see him weary, and afraid, and heartbroken over the loss of grandsons that, ironically, are still alive and breathing. I see him face his own mortality with trepidation. He sacrificed his life, literally, for others, and still finds it to be “not enough”. And, I grieve.
The last few years have been a storm of Galilean proportions. Winds have ravaged and stung. Waves have roiled and threatened to overturn our vessel. Faith has been shaken and tears of anguish and fear cried, and sometimes it feels as if Jesus still sleeps – deaf to the trouble.
I understand the desperation of the woman that threw herself at the feet of a Messiah that wasn’t her own and begged for the scraps from his table.
But, this morning, I gaze at the ivory blanket that covers my world. I watch as the sun begins to reach the places that, just 24 hours ago, were grey and bleak and cold, and warm them with a glow that reflects off the snow like diamonds. I soak in the silence – the blessed peace of a world that’s noise has been muffled, and I realize something…. I do not see the big picture. Torment is temporary. Icy shards melt. Winds cease. Cold warms. Storms yield to peace.
This morning is a wonderful reminder that I have nothing to fear. There is no hopelessness.
Oh, this morning my world is white. How beautiful and perfect and wonderful it is to sit at the feet of the Master and watch him cover the ugliness of the storm.
“Peace,” he says, and the storm ceases – beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning… and peace for despair.